What It's Like When A Company Recognizes Women For Their Skills

Julie Vrachni: Companies Should Recognize Women For Their Skills
Summary: This interview with Julie Vrachni explores gender discrimination in the workplace and the importance of recognizing women for their talent and potential.

Equality In The Workplace And Facing Bias

eLearning Industry's very own Julie Vrachni was recently featured in Queen, a popular website in Greece that promotes women's empowerment. We wanted to give our community the chance to enjoy the interview. So, without further ado, we bring you the translated publication, in which Julie, eLearning Industry's HR Manager, explains why focusing on the percentages of women's representation in leadership is insulting and how we can achieve the career we want. 

Although we live in 2023, after decades of fighting for human rights as a whole and women's rights specifically, the reality often remains disappointing.

When it comes to gender discrimination in the workplace, studies show that "equality" remains more of a concept and less of an everyday practice. Specifically, women continue to come face to face with biases regarding, but not limited to, subjects of pregnancy, sexual harassment, the pay gap, and opportunities for professional advancement. At the same time, they must deal with all the challenges that come with being a mother and wife in a society that expects women to be emotionally available for their children and work on themselves while also taking on the lion's share of the household chores. All that not only aggravates the work-life imbalance but also creates internal conflicts that inevitably impact the physical and mental health of the working woman.

All of the above is confirmed by the study conducted by eLearning Industry, a company with a female HR Manager, Julie Vrachni.

When Mrs. Vrachni took on this role in 2019, her aim was to create a corporate culture based on respect, meritocracy, and the acknowledgment that diversity promotes a more positive and productive work environment. Besides, it's not a coincidence that in the last three years, eLearning Industry (eLI)—a company that is a worldwide leader in its industry and whose workforce and administration is made up of 40% women—was certified twice as a Great Place To Work and was granted the Best Workplace Award.

But it's time to let her describe how a work environment expresses that it respects its people, regardless of gender, by respecting itself first.

"I have been eLearning Industry's HR Manager for the past four years. My journey began in the fall of 2018 in the office of eLI founder and CEO Christopher Pappas. The company was at a stage of great growth at that point, and he needed someone to help him select and organize human resources. I was struck by the ease with which he shared his vision of a company that sought to become a worldwide leader in the industry of eLearning. But most of all, I was impressed by how passionate he was about the people of eLI and the creation of a culture we rarely see in Greece. Since that meeting, I knew I wanted to be part of their journey," she mentions.

"A career is not a sprint; it's a marathon."

Women have been through too much to abandon without a fight everything they have conquered. As Mrs. Vrachni says, "The modern woman is smart, versatile, talented, strong, and capable. She has spent time and effort in her studies and has learned to set goals and achieve them. She is methodical, persistent, and effective. In other words, she has everything she needs for a brilliant career. Of course, that's not to say that it will be easy. Modern women who want to succeed often feel the pressure to 'act like a man' or even go beyond that line. However, a career is not a sprint, it's a marathon."

Mrs. Vrachni believes that there must be a balance between what happens inside and outside of the office. "In eLI, we recognize women for their skills as well as their particularities," she adds. "In the office, we promote female sensitivity, creativity, and vivacity. Outside of the office, we support the personal lives of the mother, partner, daughter, or simply the untamed and independent nature of femininity. In other words, for a woman to build a career these days, she needs to do more than try. She needs to make the right choices, starting with a work environment that will recognize her for exactly who she is and what she brings to the table."

As for her, when eLI's door closes, the door of her home opens. "That means helping my son with his crafts assignment for school, eating a healthy vegetable soup with my husband, calling the handyman to fix the air conditioner, and enjoying a relaxing moment on the couch watching a rom-com set in Paris." That is how she recharges for the next day.

"Women's representation percentages are insulting to us."

In the past few years, a global conversation has started regarding the percentage of women's representation in positions of high responsibility. Namely, the number of women in Board meetings of publicly listed companies or senior leadership teams.

According to Mrs. Vrachni, this conversation could have the opposite effect. "I believe that the focus on percentages may prevent women from contributing, as it promotes formalism at the expense of essence. It projects the same female figures instead of enhancing female diversity. I prefer to speak in terms of yin-yang, the old Chinese philosophy that finds harmony in the balance of male and female energy. A company lacking a balanced female (yin) presence is white, colorless, and one-dimensional. The success of an administrative team and a company depends on the creative intensity that comes from the diversity of the men and women that make it up, as well as their mutual sense of respect and acknowledgment."

"Things are usually simple; let's not complicate them."

Her background in large companies gave eLearning Industry's HR Manager the ability and knowledge to deal with a plethora of challenges with great success.

"One of the things I've learned is that complex procedures confuse and disorganize employees. Things are usually simple, and we must practice common sense. This is why I avoid high-sounding words and elaborate approaches. Every time we design new actions and processes for the company, I run them by my "keep it simple" filter, which has turned into my life philosophy: if it's not making life easier for our people, we're going back to the drawing board."

If you don't have balance, you fall.

One of the main priorities of eLearning Industry is to view employees as humans, not just professionals. If anything, this practice has proven that when employees are satisfied, there are no limits to the growth and success that they and their company can achieve.

"Working in a balanced work environment is above all," she explains. "It is what helps us evolve, learn new things, acquire new skills. Set goals and achieve them, claim fair salaries, have our efforts and achievements be recognized. Collaborate with kindness and in harmony with our colleagues, learn from each other, share our experiences, and, most importantly, have fun together. And at the end of the month or year, we can all celebrate our successes!"

"Trust between colleagues is the 'glue'."

When it comes to what stands out about her job, Mrs. Vrachni picked her colleagues' genuine smiles, explaining characteristically that "in eLI, we have fostered an environment where we can share our successes and small dramas, our common goals, and our individual struggles. Whatever is happening to us, when we gather around in Zoom from Athens, London, Barcelona, and Atlanta, we all can't help but smile with joy that we are all together."

As for the most important element of eLI's culture, she believes that it is "the fact that we put a lot of emphasis on camaraderie and team spirit, responsibility, effective communication, and ambitious effort. At the base of all that, of course, there is trust. This element of our culture provides us with a safety net that allows for free expression and creative action. Trust is the 'glue' that holds our team together and motivates us to do great things for our company and our clients."

As the person in charge of selecting and organizing human resources in eLearning Industry, there are many moments that have been etched in her memory.

The most important one, however, was the Best Workplace Awards ceremony back in June of 2022. "This award was the public recognition of our company's systematic work in order to foster a culture that focuses on our employees, their needs, and their development. Although we had been informed months before the ceremony about the success of our efforts, that night felt as intense as the Oscars!" she remembers.