Although you are likely to have dealt with both male and female call centre agents, the fact is that 71% of workers in the global call centre industry are female. Dubbed the “female ghetto” or, more positively, “female-friendly workplaces”, women are significantly over-represented in call centres.
The reason for this is linked to one of the biggest conundrums in gender equality: how can it be that girls consistently outperform boys in schools and yet, by the time they reach adulthood and enter into the professional arena, they earn less, occupy fewer leadership roles and generally have a lower status and less influence?
My research sheds light on this phenomenon. After extensive interviews with call centre managers and agents, as well as an investigation into the industry’s working culture and practices in Scotland and Denmark, it became clear that call centres are built on the sexist attitudes embedded in society.
Playing by the rules
Call centres are intensely regulated and target-driven work places. Agents are instructed to speak to customers in certain ways. The extent to which they follow these instructions is monitored by managers, and their salaries and career advancement can depend upon it.