Empowering Women in the Contact Center and Beyond

I recently contributed to a popular Carol Roth blog called 76 Challenges That Women Have to Overcome in Entrepreneurship (http://tinyurl.com/36wa6kg) This is similarly applicable to the workforce in general,and the contact center in particular, where there is a predominance of women.

There are common threads amongst the 76 listed in the blog:

  • It’s an inside job: The biggest challenge I believe woman have is not that they're not taken seriously out in the world, but that they don't take themselves seriously. Just because women wear many more hats than men doesn't mean that they are any less professional, efficient and effective in the business world.
  • Several people mentioned fear: fear of being rejected, fear of making mistakes, fear of taking a stand for themselves.
  • Women are being ‘should’ upon (my word); you should do this, you shouldn’t do that, you should do it my way.
  • Women question themselves: am I good enough, am I overly critical, am I balancing my work and life.
  • Asking for help is verbatim. When I grew up I was taught asking for help was a sign of weakness. Today it’s a boundary issue.
  • Back in college (way back) in a Women Studies class it was pointed out that the positive attributes of a man are the negative attributes of a woman:

Men Women

Assertive Aggressive

Outgoing Pushy

High self esteem Arrogant

Confidence Boastful

Risk taker Irresponsible

Just to name a few. The sad news is that thirty years later and some of these beliefs still exist.

  • There is a ceiling women can’t break through. I challenge this to say perhaps you are participating in that belief and without that belief/that limitation/there are no boundaries. In other words, if you believe the sky’s the limit, the sky’s the limit. If you believe there is a glass ceiling, guess what. There is a glass ceiling.

JobProfiles.org recently came out with the following statistics about women in the workplace:

  • Women account for 46% of the labor force, but 59% or workers are making less than $8 an hour
  • Women make only 77.5 cents for every dollar that men earn
  • Women earned lesss than men in 99% of all occupations
  • Four in ten businesses worldwide have no women in senior management

However, when it comes to affecting sales, women represent the majority of the online market.

Digital Divas By The Numbers (Source: Mindshare/Ogilvy & Mather)

• 22% shop online at least once a day
• 92% pass along information about deals or finds to others
• 171: average number of contacts in their e-mail or mobile lists
• 76% want to be part of a special or select panel
• 58% would toss a TV if they had to get rid of one digital device (only 11% would ditch their laptops)
• 51% are moms

Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women, reports that women influence 95% of all purchases, and control 80% of all household spending. These are very impressive numbers.

While masculinity is generally associated with the bottom line in the business world, femininity is associated more with concern for relationships. This could be why the contact center industry is a popular field among women, along with the predominance of stay at home moms in the home agent field. You can’t sell someone, help someone, or put out a fire without being able to create relationships.

In the contact center environment, it takes 12 positive customer service experiences to make up for one negative experience ("Understanding Customers" by Roby Newell-Legner). Yet 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with your organization again (Lee Resources Inc).

In today’s competitive environment, there is little difference between products and services. What distinguishes one company from another is its relationship with the customer, and your frontlines tend to have that responsibility?

While our original list can be disconcerting, I certainly won’t put forth a ‘dis-ease’ without a ‘cure,’ so what can women do moving forward?

  • Feel the fear and do it (whatever ‘it’ is) anyway. There’s actually a book by that name. Be like Nike – Just Do It!
  • Ask yourself these questions:

- What if they (whoever ‘they’ are) were wrong?

- Am I somehow participating in this/their perception?

- Do I want to take this into my future?

  • What someone else thinks about you is only their perception – to which they are entitled.

Finally, knowledge is power, clarity is power, and women, just like men, have power.