At the bottom of this article, you will find the translation into the other working languages of the ILO.
In this short note, I will share my personal journey as a young staff member who joined the SU Committee, discussing the challenges I faced and the rewards I gained. I will also offer advice to other young professionals interested in becoming more involved in the SU.
Joining the Staff Union Committee
My involvement with the SU Committee stemmed from my fervor for addressing parental concerns within the UN. Becoming a parent with the UN, I soon recognized that our policies still mirrored an outdated concept of parenthood, comprising a father and a mother, with the father responsible for providing financial support. Consequently, in 2021, I co-established U.N. Parents to bring about tangible change within the system and to advance gender equality at all UN levels.
Through my engagement across the UN, I quickly connected with the Staff Union and served as a technical advisor on these matters for the SU. When invited to join the SU Committee, I felt deeply honored and eager to elevate my commitment. As an elected Committee member, I had the chance to participate in negotiations for the new IGDS on parental leave, which led to significant improvements for our colleagues.
I wholeheartedly urge staff, particularly non-birth parents, to investigate and adopt this transformative policy. Regrettably, there is often a cultural tendency to equate parental leave with leisure time. On the contrary, parental leave lays the groundwork for long-term involvement from both parents, resulting in more equitable parenting and, ultimately, enhanced gender equality.
The expansion of parental leave enables parents to cherish the initial moments, a priceless period, with their newborns while forging a connection that is anticipated to have a lasting impact on the parent-child relationship. Non-birth parents now benefit from 16 weeks of leave, a significant increase from the previous 4 weeks, while birth parents receive 26 weeks, up from the earlier 16 weeks. I am convinced that this shift also makes us more effective as employees and managers by fostering empathy and understanding for individual family circumstances, and by promoting well-being and work productivity.
Navigating the Balance Between Work, Family, and Staff Union Activities
As a relatively new staff member with a young family, I encountered challenges in managing my time between work, SU involvement, and family life. Open communication with management and colleagues was essential, and my engagement in the SU was appreciated and respected. The birth of my second child in January added another layer of complexity to this balancing act but with the support of colleagues and SU committee members, I felt appreciated at all times. Moreover, as a new SU Committee member, you are given time to adapt and to learn about the new role.
The Value of Staff Union Involvement
What made my involvement in the SU truly worthwhile was the opportunity to learn about and address the issues that matter most to my colleagues. The ILO SU is unique within the UN, and preserving its status is paramount for our work culture. Beyond my daily work, I became involved in topics that directly impacted my colleagues’ work environment, such as flexible work arrangements, diversity and discrimination. Working with dedicated colleagues who took the time to explain the organization’s intricacies was an invaluable experience.
Advice for Young ILO Staff Eager to Engage in the Staff Union
For those looking to become more involved in the SU, I recommend first becoming a SU member and then reaching out to join working groups. There is a genuine need for increased engagement, and by participating, you can make a tangible impact on your colleagues’ lives while learning about a wide range of issues. Additionally, you may gain insight into concerns like colleagues working with disabilities, racial inequality within our workforce, and remaining gender imbalances. Increased involvement from younger colleagues also helps bring attention to concerns like career advancement, talent retention, contract precariousness, and parental challenges. By collaborating with the SU, you will have the opportunity to engage directly and refine your skill set.
Looking ahead : Retaining Talent and Adapting to Change
The precarity of contracts many young colleagues face, including myself, is an unfortunate reality. I decided to take a job at the German ministry for development cooperation (BMZ) for greater stability for my family. The way we work has changed fundamentally due to COVID-19, technological advancements, and shifting expectations. The ILO must adapt to this new reality and remain an attractive employer for young professionals. Our generation brings critical skills, in areas such as digitization and data management, that should be appreciated and utilized within the right context. Programs like the ILO reverse mentoring initiative, which allows open discussions with senior colleagues by “reversing” the usual mentor-mentee relationship, are a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, I believe there is room for further improvement. For example, young colleagues should be supported by offering well-defined career trajectories and opportunities.
Many colleagues, myself included, have faith in the organization’s mandate and take pride in contributing to and furthering its mission. While I understand that budget resources are limited, I have witnessed numerous talented colleagues depart the organization, and I believe more could have been done to retain them and prevent a knowledge gap. By collaborating with the SU, you can directly impact the organization’s preparedness for future challenges while fostering a productive and appealing work culture.
Version française: ici
Spanish version (deepl): here