At Aircall, we believe in bringing value to voice–and that starts by listening to our employees and team members.
Everyone at Aircall, irrespective of their origins, identity, background, and orientation, not only has a place in our company but a seat at the table—and the equal opportunities to develop and thrive.
We make it our mission to assemble a diverse team at Aircall because we know this is how we stand to enrich one another’s lives, learn from one another, and build a stronger organization. Our values are at the heart of what we do—and at the heart of those are diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Just ask Helen Cheuck, our VP of HR, NA and Global DE&I Leader. Helen leads on Aircall’s DE&I vision, guiding us and aligning us on how we can continually foster a culture of belonging.
Through her commitment, our goal is to inspire the next generation of underrepresented groups to flourish within our business.
To learn more about Aircall’s strategy, we spoke to Helen about her role and what inspires her to push for better diversity and inclusion every day.
Q&A With Helen Cheuck
Emily Gregor (EG): How would you describe your role as Aircall’s VP of HR, North America, and Global DE&I Leader?
Helen Cheuck (HC): My role is focused on employee engagement and retention in North America. This is done through a mix of programming and initiatives alongside our leadership team.
I simultaneously lead DE&I globally, which means I set the strategy to guide and align all stakeholders in our DE&I vision–no small task! This ensures diverse representation and equitable, inclusive, and accountable practices are at the core of how we operate.
I find that having a hand in both HR and DE&I is a major advantage, as I have a direct line of sight into our policies and practices, which act as my North Star in what makes a difference and how to impact real change.
EG: What inspired you to work in the DE&I space?
HC: In 2016, I attended an executive panel discussion where CEOs shared their views on the importance of DE&I in the workplace. I noticed how those on stage continued to overlook several underrepresented groups–groups who were even present in the room, including myself!
This was a firsthand experience of how critical it is to have diverse representation as a part of the DE&I discussion. If you don’t have everyone present in the conversation, how can you even start to plan for representation on their behalf?
As an Asian American woman, I have unfortunately witnessed and experienced the pitfalls of how underrepresented groups have to work twice as hard to get to the same levels of recognition as others. It’s exhausting. I didn’t want to think of other people having to sit in that room like I did, feeling unseen and going unheard. So I decided to do my part to change this.
EG: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
HC: Stepping into a lead DE&I role for the first time has stretched me in many ways professionally and emotionally. It’s a highly personal topic for me and unfortunately doesn’t come with any quick and easy solutions.
It can be discouraging at times, but I never feel like it’s a challenge worth abandoning. That’s because my primary focus is improvement, and we’re already seeing some.
At Aircall, we’ve improved in our most recent DE&I engagement score of 84/100 (an increase of 5%) and have increased our women’s representation overall to 51% (non-tech) and within management globally to 37%, which went up three points since Q4 of 2021, with a goal to have 45% of women management and leadership by end of 2023.
We’re also focused on increasing global Age (45+) and BIPOC representation in the U.S. to 47% by end of 2023. It’s a tough role, but seeing the small wins and knowing there’s more to come keeps me going.
EG: What has been your proudest accomplishment?
HC: My proudest accomplishment was becoming a mom to my twins, Charlotte and Cameron. Not just because of who they are but how they’ve helped me grow in so many ways.
When they were 6 months old, I decided to leave a job I was comfortable in and apply for a larger role on a new career path. I didn’t think I’d get it. It was a gamble, but I went for it anyway due to this newfound drive to provide and be the best version of myself for my family.
When I got the job, I cried happy tears. I was delighted to embark on this new adventure, but what also stuck with me were the words of the manager interviewing me, who shared how she was struck by the boldness in my taking a leap of faith in a new role as a new mom. Those words stayed with me, and continue to tell me anything is possible.
EG: What are your goals for the next six months?
HC: Over the next six months, I’ll be focused on projects that align with our core Aircall values and DE&I action levers. This means I’m working to strengthen our HR processes and growth opportunities for an improved employee experience.
I’ll be ensuring we create memorable moments for our employees through culture and engagement, alongside increased hiring efforts and creating a best-in-class culture.
EG: How would you describe Aircall’s DE&I vision?
HC: For me, it comes back to inclusion. We believe that DE&I is core to our Aircall journey and that everyone has a role to play in order for it to be successful. We promote active inclusion and a strong sense of belonging as well as assembling diverse people who can enrich and learn from each other.
We commit to making sure that everyone not only has a seat at the table but is valued at the table so that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and thrive.
EG: How can individual contributors get involved in DE&I work?
HC: We actively encourage contributions, as we know the power diversity initiatives get from collective effort and a community.
There are several ways to get involved in DE&I work at Aircall. These include reaching out to our Employee Resource Group Leads to learn more about our five ERGs: Aircall Asian Alliance, Aircall Black Collective, Gender Equality Matters, Queercall, and our BLM–BAME Book Club.
Leaders need to consider how individual contributors can share ideas, suggestions, and/or proposals directly with them. Transparent and direct lines of communication are key. At Aircall, if anyone’s unsure how they want to contribute but know they want to, then I’m always available to talk.
EG: What can company leaders do to further support DE&I initiatives?
HC: The first thing leaders can do is to self-educate on this topic and not expect marginalized people to educate you. It’s important to know the why versus the what and to learn about the cultural context and history of gender inequality, racism, homophobia, and several other “isms” that follow.
Two books I recommend include Allies and Advocates by Amber Cabral and The Wake Up by Michelle MiJung Kim. Leaders can also make a huge impact by building deeper relationships with employees who don’t look like them and helping them grow in their careers through sponsorship. This ultimately means using your power to advocate for someone’s career, especially when they’re not in the room.
Allyship is crucial in how we push for progress when it comes to diversity.
You can read more about Helen’s work at Aircall and the employee resource groups she’s behind here.
Everything about Aircall’s DE&I strategy is focused on inspiring our employees to celebrate diversity and encourage people to engage in what is an open, ongoing conversation.
It’s a journey we’re proud to be on, and we invite you to come along with us.
Published on January 2, 2024.