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Solving the Great Breakup: How BPOs Can Empower and Retain Women Leaders

March 23, 2023

There’s an alarming trend out there called the “Great Breakup”. Women are leaving companies at twice the rate of men, and this is a huge cause for concern, when the global contact center workforce is over three-quarters female - itel alone employs over 70% women. Retaining their skills, talent, and experience is of utmost importance. But why are women leaving their jobs at a faster rate than men? Often because they are not being advanced at the same rate as their male counterparts. So, for Women’s History Month, we wanted to look at ways that business process outsourcers (BPOs) can “make history”, and solve the Great Breakup, by creating more fair environments that develop, empower, and retain women leaders.  

The Need for More Role Models 

For women to “see” themselves as leaders, they must first see other women leading. In one recent study, two-thirds of women say it’s especially important to have female role models in leadership roles. This was particularly pronounced in women under 35, who said it was one of the most critical things when considering their career development. Yet almost 60% of women don’t think they can realistically reach those top positions, not because they believe they lack the necessary skills, but because they see the lack of female representation in the C-suite. According to McKinsey’s 2022 report on women in the workplace, only one in four senior executives are women, and only one in twenty is a woman of color.  

The Takeaway: Women in positions of influence can not only inspire other young women to succeed, but they can also help to elevate them, recommending them to other colleagues or for management training programs. It creates a self-generating virtuous cycle, where women help women, building supportive networks throughout organizations.  

The Solution: Actively recruit and promote women to senior leadership, even if that means setting gender diversity goals or quotas. As a BPO organization, though we recruit and promote based on merit, skills and experience, we also ensure that our executive leadership team has strong female representation. Women also sit on our internal boards and committees, as those represent powerful internal stakeholders that can set the pace for change and increased diversity in the workplace. 

The Need for Advancement Opportunities 

According to McKinsey’s research, over two-thirds of both men and women agree that it’s “highly important” for women to have equal chances for career advancement. However, many women report a lack of mentors and the absence of personal connections that men often have which help them secure leadership positions. Almost 80% cite a lack of advancement opportunities altogether. What could be holding women back is what McKinsey calls the “broken rung effect”, where too few women are promoted to the first step in management; for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager roles, there are only 87 women and only 82 women of color. This prevents women from catching up because there are simply too few women to promote to senior leadership.  

The Takeaway: Companies need to figure out how to fix any broken rungs in their organization by filling the promotion gap for women. It’s not only good for business (gender-diverse companies are 21% more profitable), but most employees also agree that businesses have a responsibility to provide women with career development resources.  

The Solution: BPOs can ensure that women and men are given promotions at similar rates, making sure to remove any potential biases in the evaluation process. They also need to provide opportunities for women to enter leadership training, such as itel’s iRISE management training program, which is open to anyone with the required tenure, who also meets their performance targets. High performing women should also be identified and offered opportunities for advancement, which is something we as a company believe in; about 70-80% of our managers started as itel agents and many of them are women.  

The Need for Better Recognition 

Women often face a lack of recognition in the workplace. According to McKinsey, they are twice as likely to be mistaken for someone more junior or to have colleagues implying that they aren’t qualified for their jobs. Though they usually do more to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, and spend more time ensuring that team members feel supported, those efforts often aren’t rewarded. Female managers, on average, still earn only 71 cents for every dollar earned by male managers and 40% of women leaders say their DEI work isn’t acknowledged at all in performance reviews. This leads to increased burnout among women leaders, 43% versus 31% for men, and a quitting rate 2x higher than that of men. 

The Takeaway: Women are just as interested as men in raises, promotions, and recognition. They are also just as eager for leadership opportunities. However, the reason women turn down leadership roles twice as often as men is the concern that their work wouldn’t be properly supported, compensated, or recognized.  

The Solution: Compensation and recognition doesn’t always mean monetary rewards. Though pay equity should be something for which all companies strive, BPOs can also offer other forms of non-monetary recognition. Sometimes even a “thank you” or “good job” goes a long way in increasing employee morale and retention. At itel, we recognize those who go above and beyond through our A-Lister awards, as well as small gifts, such as company branded clothing, or water bottles, to show our appreciation for people’s hard work.  

Parting Thoughts 

In the end, women who are supported, valued, and given equal opportunities have the potential to become exceptional leaders.  

Not only do businesses benefit from having multiple viewpoints, opinions and ideas generated by a diverse workforce, those companies that are the most gender diverse have increased collaboration, increased productivity and are more innovative.  

In fact, if gender gaps were bridged, and women leaders could unleash their full potential, the world economy would be $28.4 trillion richer (that’s 26%). That’s one compelling reason to fix what’s causing the Big Breakup, and why BPOs should invest in, empower and retain women leaders.  

Learn more about our diversity, our company culture and unique careers made for unique people. Check out our Careers Page

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