After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Helen Franco decided to change the course of her career. Soon, she was accepted as a candidate for a Juris Doctorate degree. After working for two law firms, she transitioned to an in-house position and has since thrived in the corporate world.
In 2010, she was appointed as the corporate counsel with BPO outfit C3 (Customer Contact Channels) that was acquired by Everise in 2016. She saw this as an opportunity to utilise her knowledge of the company, its people and its operations in order to embark on a new adventure. She speaks with Women Icons Network the legal framework that ensures gender parity in the modern workplace.
Working at Everise
When Helen met Everise CEO and founder Sudhir Agarwal and other senior leaders of the company, she understood she shared their passion of making the company stand out among its peers. Five years later, she says, neither the excitement nor the passion of the leadership has waned. In fact, she has had several opportunities to feel increasingly proud of the company’s achievements, especially in its promotion of diversity and inclusion in all areas of its operations.
“There are enough legal safeguards in Everise to ensure that our people feel comfortable in their work environment. The HR Department’s robust open-door policy, together with a whistle-blower hotline that was initially set up in 2011 allows employees to speak their mind and be assured that they will be heard,” she elaborates. In fact, she believes that the thinking process of the entire team has constantly evolved through the years.
The leadership takes developments surrounding new legislations regarding diversity and inclusion very seriously, she asserts. The company, she says, is always striving to be at the forefront of the industry in ensuring the right safeguards are in place to make its employees comfortable in their daily interactions with each other, with management and with the customers they serve.
Helen thinks that gender equality has become a priority across industries. She cites a recent report by Women in the Workplace to point out that one-third of mothers face opting out of or scaling back their careers. It was the realisation of this fact much earlier that made Everise declare its mission as ‘people first’. It is due to this approach that 65% of the company’s workforce is currently female, with 45% being in leadership roles. She proudly declares that a majority of the colleagues with whom she interacts on a daily basis are female.
A couple of decades back, when she was at the outset of her career, she got into an uncomfortable situation with a male colleague. She reported the incident to the relevant authorities, resulting in the erring staffer being removed from his position of authority. This incident cemented her belief in the power of communication to address difficult situations.
Even today, Helen holds that the best way to address gender diversity and inclusion is to keep an open line of communication between the employees and management. “In this regard, I have instituted a detailed and user-friendly Whistleblower Policy and an anonymous whistle-blower hotline (via phone and email) that works globally and is easily accessible to any of our employees no matter where they are located,” she states. The HR and legal departments then work together diligently to ensure that employees are aware of the hotline and use it, she adds.
The company highlights its policies addressing equality through email blasts that provide real-life examples of hiring and promotion of women, she informs. She feels her journey in the company bears witness to its gender-blind promotion practices. Her efforts helped her get promoted from Director to Vice President to Senior Vice President and now Chief Legal Officer within a span of five years.
Improving Gender Equity
Corporations need to make their employees aware of the potential harm to the company’s reputation in the labor marketplace of persistent gender inequality, both on hiring and on promotion, feels Helen. To that end, exchanging information and showing a united front by having companies join roundtable discussions on the topic would be helpful, she thinks, especially on topics such as salary transparency, maternity leaves and flexible working hours.
When asked to share her vision of the future of the workplace in terms of gender parity, she talks of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). She feels that they would provide new work prospects and paths for economic progress in the age of automation, which will only add to the already long list of hurdles that ambitious women need to jump through to achieve their career aspirations. As a means to offset this, she suggests encouraging female leaders to act as mentors to other women coming up through the ranks.