Gender equality remains a challenge not only in the business sector, but throughout Philippine society no matter how modern or sophisticated it may seem. Oftentimes, empowering one gender may lead to discrimination of another, especially when comparisons are made.
Aside from gender, several other factors shape how an employee may perform or contribute to the company. Brought on by the changing times and evolving norms, Filipino women’s circumstances - and not necessarily their gender - has enabled them to make significant progress in the outsourcing industry.
In celebration of the National Women’s History Month, here are three reasons why women continue to thrive as call center agents.
They're Breadwinners, Too
One of the milestones of the global female empowerment movement is the active participation of women in building stronger economies. More women are entering the workforce to support themselves and their loved ones. Many of them are now the sole breadwinners of their family.
Nicole*, 29, for instance, grew up with her grandmother and cousins. In the absence of her parents, she finds numerous low-skilled jobs -- as a cashier, a sales clerk, a promodiser -- before settling as a back-office agent to meet her family’s needs.
When her father, who was a seaman, fell ill due to a lung disease, Jen* became a self-supporting working student. As soon as she graduated, she applied for a job as a back-office agent to finally unburden her aging parents and assume the role of a breadwinner.
Now that single-parenthood is no longer considered a taboo subject in the Philippines, women have greater agency in finding work and providing for their children. As single working moms rise in number in the Philippines, the call center industry beckons to them with high-salaried jobs.
Because call centers tend to pay high rates, good financial compensation is attractive to different types of female earners.
Some independent women who want to finance themselves through higher levels of education find call centers convenient in meeting this goal. Mel*, currently a manager at a call center, supported her pursuit for a master’s degree with her substantial salary as an agent.
It’s Easier to Rise in the Career Ladder
While men and women should get equal opportunities, many sectors still adhere to a patriarchy albeit implicitly. For example, women are still not considered as competent as men in sectors like engineering, or construction, or the armed forces.
Because a customer service job in call centers is less "technical" and require certain skills (i.e. communication, organization, etc) that are not commonly biased against women, they are more readily gauged based on their qualifications and talents, as they should be.
Call centers provide an avenue for women where they can shatter the proverbial "glass ceiling" or render it non-existent because they're readily perceived as highly capable of holding senior positions.
Flexibility at Work
Compared to Singapore and Malaysia, more women in the Philippines enjoy flexible work schedules, including an option to work at home. While gender discrimination still exists, these hard-won benefits make a job in a fair trade call center more rewarding for Filipino women.
Most call center jobs are outsourced from Western countries particularly the United States. This means that while it’s daylight on the opposite side of the world, it’s nighttime in the Philippines. This can be highly advantageous to female agents because most are still culturally expected to take care of their families.
A single mother may find it more convenient to work at nighttime when her preschool child sleeps as she can use some of the daytime hours to bond with him or bring him to school. A student will appreciate working in the evening as she needs to attend classes in the morning.
Jen*, who was mentioned previously, worked at night and attended her review for the teachers' board exam in the morning. Likewise, Mel* went to university for her continuing education during the day.
The odd working hours may be unappealing to some, but it provides an opportunity for many modern women to meet the demands of the various roles they play.
To “diversify” an office staff is not an excuse to hire people based on their gender alone. Their skills, performance, attitude, and personal circumstances must be taken into account in order to achieve true gender parity.
(*names have been changed to protect their identities)