Women in Outsourcing

Women in Outsourcing

Despite making up more than half of the world’s population, women in outsourcing and other business positions still face significant challenges in terms of representation, leadership opportunities, and pay equity. The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum shows that gender gaps in labor force participation, wages, and leadership positions persist worldwide. According to the report, only 58% of the global gender gap has been closed, and it will take an estimated 135.6 years to achieve gender parity at the current rate of progress. Women’s labor force participation rates have remained stagnant over the past few years, and the gender pay gap is still significant, with women earning just 68 cents for every dollar earned by men. The report also highlights the lack of women in leadership positions, with women holding just 27% of managerial positions globally. These challenges are compounded by a global market that remains deeply divided along gender lines. Although progress has been made in the last century, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the workforce.

Women in the Workforce: History & Workplace Changes in the Past Decades

The Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org shows that gender stereotypes and biases continue to impact women’s experiences in the workplace. According to the report, women are still underrepresented at every level in corporate America, with women holding just 38% of manager-level positions and only 22% of C-suite roles. Women of color face even greater challenges, with Black women and Latinas holding just 4% of C-suite positions. The report also highlights the “double-bind” that women often face when it comes to leadership, where women are penalized for exhibiting stereotypically feminine traits like empathy and collaboration, but also penalized for exhibiting stereotypically masculine traits like assertiveness and confidence. These findings show that while progress has been made since the early 1900s, gender stereotypes and biases still limit women’s opportunities in the modern workplace.

A cohort study revealed that female college graduates from 1900 and 1920 were faced with the difficult decision of choosing between pursuing a career or starting a family. In the early 1900s to 1930s, teaching was among the limited professions available to women, although married women were typically excluded. This meant that women who aspired to have a career in education during this era were often unable to have families. Those who managed to balance a career and family tended to start teaching later in life and for shorter periods.

During World War II, the shortage of men opened up employment opportunities for women, including both single and married women, in positions that had previously been reserved for men. This included teaching roles for women with or without children, who were able to take on these positions when male teachers went to war. However, when the war ended, women were often forced to leave their jobs in factories as returning soldiers were given priority for employment. The post-war period saw the resurgence of gender stereotypes, with the female “nurturer” myth being reestablished. This resulted in companies firing pregnant women and making it difficult for women with young children to seek employment.

During the 1970s, the wages of men began to stagnate, creating more opportunities for women to enter the workforce. Women started to break into traditionally male-dominated fields, and even mothers with young children began working outside the home. By the turn of the century, there was a marked increase in the number of dual-earner couples, with 40% of wives earning salaries equal to or greater than their husbands. This shift has had a profound impact on families, as they must now navigate the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities.

Modern Trends

In 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey and analyzed census data, which found that young women aged 25 to 32 were surpassing their male counterparts in education and earnings. This was attributed to a trend of rising wages for women and declining earnings for men. However, the survey also found that young women were more likely than young men to report experiencing pay discrimination for doing the same job. Women were also more likely than men to express the need for changes to achieve gender equality in the workplace. While both men and women value job security, women were more likely to feel that being a working parent posed challenges to career advancement.

A study made in 2021 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics portrays that the labor force participation rate for women has steadily increased over the past several decades, and women now make up nearly half of the total labor force in the United States. Additionally, women are now more likely than men to have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the number of women in high-paying professions such as law and medicine continues to rise. The study also notes that women are delaying childbirth and having fewer children, which has allowed them to focus more on their careers. However, the study also highlights persistent gender wage gaps and underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.

Women in Outsourcing: IT Outsourcing, Call Centers, Outsourced Accounting & Other BPO Jobs

Outsourcing manufacturing to other countries had been a common practice for companies in the United States and Europe for several decades. However, it was not until the late 1990s, when tech firms were preparing their information systems for the Y2K threat, that offshoring as we know it today gained momentum. India, with its unique mix of information technology expertise and a large talent pool, emerged as the primary destination for offshore services during this time. India remains a global leader in IT and business process outsourcing to this day, followed by other countries such as the Philippines, Poland, China, Costa Rica, Ireland, Czech Republic, and many other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

India BPO

While the traditional notion that women should solely focus on their role as homemakers has been challenged in the West, emerging economies such as India and the Philippines have also seen significant shifts in workplace gender roles. A study by Nasscom India reveals that in urban areas, women comprise around 50 percent of the business process outsourcing (BPO) workforce. Moreover, women who work night shifts in the BPO sector make up over 40 percent of the total workforce.

Although women have made significant contributions to the Indian BPO industry, there are still several challenges that hinder the progress of gender equality in the workplace. According Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Indian entrepreneur and the founder of Biocon Limited, communication and self-expression are among the key challenges faced by women in the industry. Women at lower levels often struggle to speak up about issues such as inadequate safety measures and night shift work.

Despite significant improvements in safety measures such as company pick-up and drop-off vehicles, hotlines, SMS services that monitor commuting employees, and background checks on taxi drivers, female BPO workers in India still do not feel entirely safe. Additionally, when a female BPO worker gets married, she may face pressure from her husband and family members to quit her job instead of taking a leave of absence. A Mercer and Nasscom survey on gender inclusivity in India’s IT-BPO sector found that female workers also struggle with flexible working hours and policies on leaves and absences.

To attract and retain female BPO talent, companies in India should have anti-harassment policies, healthcare and awareness programs, women’s recreational activities, and family days. The Assocham Social Development Foundation (ASDF) recommended that the Indian government must make it mandatory for companies to install GPS in cabs and CCTV cameras in the workplace, as well as introduce self-defense training classes and efficient systems to address complaints by female employees.

Additionally, the Indian government has implemented several regulations aimed at improving the safety and working conditions for female workers in various industries, including the BPO sector. In 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed, which mandates that all companies with more than 10 employees have an internal complaints committee to address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The Indian government introduced the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act in 2017, which increased the duration of paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks and requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide a daycare facility for children under six years of age.

More recently, in 2021, the Indian government introduced the Code on Social Security, which aims to provide social security benefits to all workers, including informal and gig workers, and includes provisions for maternity benefits, medical benefits, and insurance coverage.

Philippines Outsourcing

The BPO industry in the Philippines makes a significant contribution of almost $30 billion annually to the country’s economy. According to a 2021 report by the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), the country’s BPO sector employs around 1.4 million workers, and women comprise about 55% of the industry’s workforce. The report also shows that BPO remains a significant contributor to the country’s economy, generating over $26 billion in revenue in 2020. Furthermore, the sector is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, with an estimated 3-5% annual growth rate projected for 2021 to 2022.

A 2018 report by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) found that BPO jobs in the Philippines are mainly filled by women who are college-educated, with degrees in fields such as business, engineering, and information technology. Women also tend to hold higher-level positions in the sector, with female managers accounting for 59% of all managers in the industry. However, the report also noted that gender discrimination and workplace harassment remain prevalent issues in the BPO industry, and more needs to be done to address these concerns.

Impact Sourcing and Women Workers

Impact sourcing is a practice that involves employing individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds in web-based or BPO jobs. This approach has the potential to not only provide employment opportunities but also improve the standard of living in underserved communities. In an effort to provide work to the world’s poorest citizens in low-employment areas, some companies are implementing impact sourcing. According to the co-founder and chief development officer of Digital Divide Data (DDD), an impact sourcing company that provides content services to high-profile clients such as Harvard and Stanford, there are more than 24 BPO companies in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, and Pakistan that hire disadvantaged workers to deliver services to global clients. Organizations like DDD are helping to expand opportunities for low-income women to acquire better skills and pursue careers in locations where education and jobs in the IT industry are scarce.

The expansion of global business process outsourcing (BPO) is creating more employment opportunities for women across the world. To continue this positive trend, governments must prioritize initiatives that enable women to gain the skills required for BPO jobs, introduce measures that promote gender diversity in industries typically dominated by men, such as information technology, enhance safety and working conditions for female workers on night shifts, and address the root causes of gender pay gaps in the BPO sector.

Outsourcing Industry: Benefits for Women

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a rapidly growing sector in the global economy, creating more employment opportunities for women and increasing the expectations placed on them. This impact is especially evident in emerging markets and top BPO destinations like India and the Philippines, where the industry has generated new income and entrepreneurship opportunities, particularly for well-educated women.

Despite the challenges, the IT-BPO industries in India and the Philippines are known for having a high level of gender diversity.  Above all other factors, workers are hired based on talent, allowing highly-educated women to assume a wide range of positions in the industry.

Improved Income

Women in outsourcing have been able to improve their income levels and support their families. According to a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), women account for 60% of the global outsourcing industry’s workforce, and it is estimated that 70% of the total workforce in some countries like the Philippines and India are women. This shows the significant impact outsourcing has had on women’s employment and income levels.

New Skills Acquisition

Working in call centers and BPO firms can provide women with opportunities to gain new technical and soft skills, which can enhance not only their product knowledge and technical expertise but also their communication, listening, interpersonal skills, and assertiveness.


Women in outsourcing have comparatively high wages and benefits, enabling them to achieve greater autonomy and independence, which is empowering. Women who are well-educated and working in call centers have the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience from both their local environment and the West, equipping them to be competitive in the global workforce. For instance, in India, some women work in call centers to support their families, while also advancing their education and pursuing work that aligns with their interests and aspirations.

Increased Investment in Healthcare

The BPO industry’s adoption of female-friendly policies and higher wages is empowering women to invest more in their health and well-being. In India, many companies within the BPO industry offer generous maternity benefits and 24/7 childcare services to support their female employees. These benefits not only enable women to pursue their careers without sacrificing their family obligations, but also ensure that they can prioritize their own health and well-being.

Changing Perceptions of Female Roles and Abilities

The growth of the IT-BPO sector in India is gradually changing the traditional attitudes of parents towards their daughters’ career choices. Historically, parents have had significant influence over their daughters’ decisions, but the rise of the sector has led to more middle-class parents becoming increasingly comfortable with their daughters working in graveyard shifts or traveling for business. In the Philippines, the BPO industry has also played a significant role in empowering women and advancing gender equality. Due to the high demand for English language skills, the industry has provided numerous employment opportunities for Filipino women, especially those with college degrees.

Greater Participation in the Male-Dominated Outsourced IT Segment

Although the information technology industry has traditionally been male-dominated, the global expansion of IT and BPO has created new opportunities for women workers. The IT-BPO outsourcing industry in countries such as India and the Philippines has become a meritocracy that prioritizes skills and talent over gender, enabling highly skilled and educated women to secure positions in a field that was once predominantly occupied by men. Moreover, the promise of higher wages and female-oriented benefits is inspiring young women who are still in school to pursue IT and software degrees, further enhancing their employability and contributing to greater gender diversity in the industry.

According to Nasscom India, women represent 20 to 25 percent of science and engineering graduates in the country. In 2008, women comprised 28 percent of the overall IT workforce in India, a higher proportion than in other sectors of the economy. This increased gender diversity in the Indian IT industry is not limited to urban areas, as IT-BPO jobs are now providing women in rural areas and small towns with better opportunities to earn higher wages and develop new skills in knowledge-based services, contributing to greater gender equality in the workplace.

Advanced communication technology is playing a crucial role in dismantling the obstacles that hinder women’s economic growth. Thanks to electronic activities such as e-commerce, e-government, and e-learning, women can now participate in the digital economy without the need for in-person interactions with men, particularly in regions where it may not be culturally accepted. This progress is a significant step towards empowering women by providing them with equal access to opportunities that were previously out of their reach.

Case Studies & Examples in BPO: Opportunities for Growth and Self-Reliance

Employment for Women in Outsourcing: India’s Rural BPOs

The Indian business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has made significant strides in increasing women’s participation in the workforce, particularly in rural areas. According to industry estimates, women comprise about half of the BPO workforce in urban areas, but in rural BPOs, this percentage is even higher. A report by the Times of India highlighted that some rural BPOs employ more women than men, with over 60% and even up to 100% of their workforce being female. This trend has enabled women to gain meaningful employment opportunities in traditionally male-dominated industries and contribute to their families’ income, thereby promoting gender equality and empowerment.

According to the HR manager at Desicrew Solutions, women are equally skilled and capable as men in understanding tasks and performing them with precision. In fact, women are more likely to exhibit loyalty towards their jobs than men. This may explain why 80% of Desicrew Solutions’ employees are women, housed in seven offices across Tamil Nadu, with two centers dedicated to women in the area.

However, in some cases, rural BPOs may operate all-women facilities out of necessity. For instance, at JSoft Solutions, many fathers do not want their daughters working with men, and the social stigma surrounding mixed-gender workplaces is still prevalent in some rural areas. As a result, hiring only female employees becomes the only viable option for such BPOs.

Vintes is a rural BPO located in Kerala that operates with an all-female workforce. According to the company’s director, young men in rural areas are more likely to migrate to cities in search of better-paying jobs, while young women, including those with education, often remain in their villages due to societal and familial pressures. This has contributed to a surge in the employment of women in rural BPOs.

Additionally, women outperformed men in entrance tests conducted by HDFC Bank for job applicants, leading to the hiring of 75 out of 125 women in HDFC’s captive BPO in Andhra Pradesh. This data highlights the crucial role that rural BPOs play in creating employment opportunities for women and promoting gender diversity in the workplace.

JSW Steel: Improving Living Standards of Women in Vidyanagar

Rural women in India face numerous challenges, including limited access to education, job opportunities, early marriage, and family responsibilities. To address this issue, JSW Steel has taken an innovative approach to improve rural women’s economic status and living standards by establishing business process outsourcing (BPO) operations in Vidyanagar, an emerging industrial complex. JSW Steel set up a training center to provide over 1,000 female high school graduates in the area with the necessary skills to succeed in the BPO industry. Moreover, the women were given a stipend and transportation allowance for six months to support their transition into the workforce. Women have been employed as business associates, while others have secured jobs at JSW Steel and other companies. JSW Steel’s efforts have not only provided women with new employment opportunities but also reduced migration to other areas and retained skilled workers for new industries in the region.

Political and Capital Empowerment of Women in Kerala

In 1999, the government of Kerala State in India started outsourcing IT services, data entry and digitization, and PC assembly and maintenance to cooperatives made up of below-poverty-line women. In the study called Social Outsourcing as a Development Tool, published in 2009 by the University of Manchester, the women described their empowerment in terms of improved self-identity, self-confidence, and status. They were more confident when dealing with other people and approaching institutions. Other members of the community also approached them with IT-related questions and questions on how to set up a business. Ten percent of the respondents reported that they were more involved in politics, and a similar proportion of women said that the project increased their participation in social functions. These women were also responsible for hiring and managing male employees, breaking away from traditional female goals of static security.

In recent years, the government of Kerala state has continued to prioritize the empowerment of women through outsourcing initiatives. In 2014, the state government launched the Kudumbashree Mission, which aimed to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to women in poverty through various outsourcing projects, including IT services, data entry, and digitization. These projects have enabled women to develop new skills and become financially independent, leading to improved self-confidence and status within their communities. According to a report by the Indian Institute of Technology, the Kudumbashree Mission has also been successful in promoting women’s participation in decision-making and leadership roles, with many women now serving as managers and supervisors in outsourcing projects. Furthermore, women involved in the initiative have been able to break away from traditional female roles and take on hiring and management responsibilities for male employees. These efforts have had a positive impact on not only the women involved but also their families and communities, promoting gender equality and empowerment.

Economic Diversification for Women in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s first all-female business process outsourcing center opened in 2014, giving local women employment opportunities in HR, finance and accounting, materials supply, and back office services. In a country where the unemployment rate among women is 34 percent in 2013, the center’s opening is good news to female graduates. The center’s inauguration will boost Saudi Arabia’s competitiveness in the outsourcing sector, and more important, create jobs for skilled Saudi women.

Saudi Arabia has continued to prioritize women’s economic empowerment through various initiatives. In 2018, the country’s National Transformation Program set a goal to increase female workforce participation from 22% to 30% by 2030. Furthermore, the country’s Vision 2030 plan aims to increase women’s contribution to the economy through initiatives such as promoting female entrepreneurship and enabling women to work from home. In 2021, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) announced plans to introduce regulations that would require banks and financial institutions to provide credit facilities to women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These efforts have had a positive impact on the employment prospects of Saudi women, as evidenced by the opening of the country’s first all-female business process outsourcing center in 2014. The center has provided employment opportunities to local women in various sectors such as HR, finance and accounting, materials supply, and back-office services, thereby contributing to the country’s competitiveness in the outsourcing sector while creating jobs for skilled Saudi women.

Advancements in Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Philippines

The Philippines has made efforts to promote women’s economic empowerment through various initiatives. In 2019, the government passed the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, which increased paid maternity leave from 60 to 105 days for female employees in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, the government has implemented programs such as the Women’s Business Council Philippines, which aims to increase women’s participation in entrepreneurship and provide them with the necessary support and resources to succeed.

However, significant barriers to women’s economic empowerment remain, including limited access to credit and financing, as well as discriminatory laws and regulations affecting women’s pay and work after having children. A study published in 2020 examined the financing needed to expand paid maternity leave to support breastfeeding in the informal sector, highlighting the importance of addressing these barriers to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in the Philippines.

Increased Employment in India, China and the Philippines

Top outsourcing destinations such as India, China and the Philippines are experiencing strong economic growth through BPO, and the women in these countries are benefiting from improved employment prospects. In the Philippines, for example, the BPO sector employs over 1 million workers, half of which are women. India’s ICT ad back office services boom is also increasing job prospects for women. The BPO sector offers unprecedented flexibility in time and space, allowing scores of women to work at home or outside the office for the first time. Women can now improve their incomes and become more financially independent while having the option to assume traditional roles.

To learn more about outsourcing, you can read our Top 8 Qualities of an Outsourcing Company in the Philippines article. We invite you to follow us on social media and to visit our website to learn more about our services.

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Sourcefit’s commitment to excellence has been recognized through numerous industry awards and certifications.

We recently received the Fortress Cyber Security Award from the Business Intelligence Group. Sourcefit was also honored with the prestigious recognition of Best Outsourcing Solutions Provider in the Philippines during the 2023 Business Excellence Awards.

Other awards include: FT ranking of 500 high-growth Asia-Pacific, The Marketing Excellence Awards, Inquirer Growth ChampionHR Asia Awards, among others.

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