What's It Like Being Gay and Working in Philippine Outsourcing
17 May

By Claire Ponsaran | Posted on May 17, 2017 at 9:15 PM 0 Comments

Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Let's commemorate this day with a quick look at how LGBTQ workers have fared, so far, in the Philippine outsourcing industry.

As long as they do their jobs well, LGBTQ workers in the Philippines are welcome to build a sustainable career path in the outsourcing industry. Unlike other businesses in the country, offshore outsourcing companies do not discriminate against them.

According to a 2013 global poll by the Pew Research Center, more than 70% of Filipinos believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society. It may seem like wishful thinking for some, but it's a good sign that Filipinos are slowly changing their views regarding homosexuality. Based on this poll from a non-partisan authoritative source, the Philippines probably has a greater number of LGBTQ-friendly workplaces compared to other Asian nations.

Greater Freedom for LGBTQs in Outsourcing

While it's true that the LGBTQ community is still struggling for general acceptance in the Philippines, the less discriminating attitudes of outsourcing workers towards homosexuals and transgenders among their ranks show that the pervading sub-culture in call centers and other offshore service providers is more liberal and forgiving than the general public.

In the Philippines, call centers have become havens for gender-nonconforming people, a place where they can experiment with their gender presentation and identity.

In the workplace, gays and lesbians can wear anything they want as long as their attire follows the dress code assigned to the gender they identify with, and they can use a male or female name while on the phone. If they have a cubicle or a desk, they may decorate their work area as they see fit. Having a framed photo of their life partner will not be looked upon with disgust or hatred. Many of their co-workers will be curious, but none will actually make a fuss with HR.

A research paper on the life experiences of LGBTQ workers in the Philippines revealed that when they're accepted by their co-workers it leads to greater productivity at work.

As one participant shared, acceptance allows them to communicate and discuss things more openly than before. Teamwork exist[s], thus, productivity is more possible since it allows people of different expertise to converge and work for one goal. In the BPO [industry], teamwork is important, because productivity can only be achieved if all members work together to make sure that they will all be able to [participate in the] sell  or close [of] a deal. This is why LGBTs are accepted in BPOs, their ability to work with  the team makes them an asset.

Outsourcing Workers are More Liberated

Outsourcing companies try to mimic western culture. They tend to adopt the same values that their clients have and follow the same cultural norms as them. One of those norms is a more liberated attitude towards sexual orientation and gender identity expression or SOGIE.

Tech workers around the world tend to be younger and therefore more open-minded than the rest of their culture. They learn[ ] English and [...] American culture by watching TV shows like Friends and Beverly Hills 90210. They are the most likely within their community to have shifting views on LGBT equality.

Many LGBTQ workers date a co-worker of the same sex. And so, some couples end up working together in the same company. But, this is usually discouraged among employees of any gender because companies don't want to deal with the messy aftermath of a bad breakup or a couple fighting over issues in their relationship. It doesn't have anything to do with their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Why LGBTs Do Well in Customer Service and Outsourcing

They don't really need to shout it at the top of their lungs, but they also don't need to hide in the closet just to advance. LGBTQ outsourcing workers, like their heterosexual colleagues, are promoted based on their performance at work. It's probably because they've learned to navigate through the intricacies of interacting with their fellow human beings while growing up.

They've learned to compartmentalize, reserving the beauty of their true selves for those who love and understand them, and performing emotional labor for the faceless strangers they interact with each day as part of their job. Emotional labor is when a customer service representative had to receive a call with a smile and a warm, welcoming tone when he or she is not actually feeling happy at the moment.

The LGBTQ community may be a minority in the Philippines, but its members play a huge role in boosting the nation's economic growth.

[...] Studies have shown that the integration of the LGBT community into the economic system yields a higher income for the country. In a recent USAID study, it is said that a wide range of scholarly theories from economics, political science, sociology, psychology, public health and other social sciences support the idea that full rights and inclusion of LGBT people are associated with higher levels of economic development and well-being for the country. Also, the acceptance of LGBT people within the office environment can lead to higher income for the company since the people do not feel as disadvantaged and as discriminated as before.

Becoming a More Progressive Society

A transgender politician, Representative Geraldine Roman from Bataan, is now a beacon of hope for LGBTQs in the Philippines. Her SOGIE Equality Bill has passed through its third hearing in Congress. The bill penalizes all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). When this bill becomes law, LGBTQs gain legal protection in the workplace from discrimination and harassment.

Meanwhile, multinational companies in the Philippines have also begun pushing for workplace equality through implementation of LGBTQ-friendly policies. One of those companies is Thomson Reuters, which announced that they would be providing equal benefits to same-sex partners in their Manila office.

In the memo Thomson Reuters employees received in July, they were informed that same-sex couples will [have availability to] health care,life insurance and retirement benefits equal to their heterosexual counterparts. Same-sex couples and their families no longer have to rely on their own savings while heterosexual couples enjoy company-sponsored benefits.

In the Philippine outsourcing industry, companies like Telus International and ADP Philippines have organized and participated in several events that support LGBTQ initiatives. These multinational companies may have huge budgets for these activities, but small outsourcing firms can also make a difference by keeping the conversation surrounding LGBTQ issues alive on social media and the blogosphere.

It seems the outsourcing industry is truly a haven for the marginalized LGBTQ community in the Philippines. But, what about other industries and society in general? Sadly, the Philippines still has a long way to go before homophobia and transphobia can be truly crushed, but we're getting there one step at a time.


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Tags: Outsourcing to the Philippines, Filipino Outsourcing Staff, Diversity in Outsourcing

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