“Man should be at the centre of every economic system. At the centre of the coordination of work should be human development. This is a big challenge for us, but it is always possible, given the new technologies, to improve our workplace. We do not do it very often, but it is always possible”. This is Sister Helen Alford’s idea (cf. interview with Tv2000 in 2019), from her dissertation entitled Cellular Manufacturing, Business Integration and Humanisation of Work, on the relationship between the manufacturing model and the humanization of work.
Since the end of March, this Dominican nun has been the new president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. It was Pope Francis who appointed her to the role. The Pope is continuing along the path, which he himself mapped out, of increasing the number of women in important and senior positions in Vatican institutions. Since July, Sisters Raffaella Petrini and Yvonne Reungoat, and UMFOC president Maria Lia Zervino have been members of the Dicastery for Bishops; since November, Raffaella Giuliani has been secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology and Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi is undersecretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education.
Due to the origin and the destination of those involved, these are milestones of great interest in the mapping of the female presence in the Vatican.
London-born Helen Alford, born in 1964, has since the age of 30 been one of the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena in Newcastle, KwaZulu Natal (South Africa). She has been concerned with the relationship between ethics and economics, convinced that the growth of a business depends on the wellbeing of those who experience it firsthand.
Her CV includes a degree in Management Engineering from Cambridge University, where she also received a PhD; work experience in industry; and, numerous publications on management theory and corporate social responsibility. In addition, she has taught subjects related to economic ethics and the history of Christian social thought at various universities.
Sister Helen Alford is dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Angelicum in Rome, the pontifical university named after St Thomas Aquinas, of which she was vice-rector and where she has spent much of her teaching career.
She arrived in 2020 at the Academy, which was then presided over by the Italian economist Stefano Zamagni. In an interview (La Stampa), she reiterated the idea that “business and economic actors should take into account the social aspects, the life-work balance, and the vision of employees as members of families. In other words, combining “man as man” with “man as worker”. In addition, she has also spoken about the “fundamental development of artificial intelligence, without falling into the cliché of the negative effect on jobs”.