Customer Service

The impact of women in customer service.

Adebukola Ajayi
March 8, 2024

Happy International Women’s Day to every amazing woman out there! Let's take a moment to delve into the history of women in customer service and acknowledge the challenges women face. #inspireinclusion #Investinwomen

The history of women in customer service.

Back in 1878, when telephones were just starting to become a thing, a lady named Emma Nutt became the very first female telephone operator, thanks to Boston Telephone Dispatch, who discovered that the boys and young men who had been successful telegraphy operators did not have the right attitude or presentation for live phone connections.

Customer response to Nutt’s cultured, smooth voice was overwhelmingly positive, so the male operators were phased out and more women were hired.

This was a huge deal because it opened up opportunities for lots of other women to work in call centers and on the phones.

Then, during World War I, there were these amazing women known as 'Hello Girls' who worked as switchboard operators for the United States Army Signal Corps. They didn't just connect calls; they also helped push forward the women's suffrage movement, showing that women could do important jobs just as well as men.

Nowadays, if you look at call centers, you'll see that most people answering the phones are women – about 72.6% in the United States! But even though there are a lot of women working in customer service, not as many of them get promoted to be in charge. Only about 48% of the leaders in call centers are women.

Challenges faced by women in the customer service industry.

Recent findings from McKinsey's Women in the Workplace Report shed light on these challenges, painting a sobering picture of disparities and struggles faced by women in CX roles.

1. Leadership disparity.

McKinsey's report reveals a stark reality - men are significantly more likely to ascend to managerial positions compared to women. This "broken rung" in the career ladder creates a barrier for women to progress to senior leadership levels. 

For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women receive the same opportunity, hindering their chances of reaching senior manager, director, and vice-president roles.

2. Microaggressions and burnout.

Women in CX confront pervasive microaggressions that undermine their professional growth and well-being, with women of color experiencing them at an even higher rate. Additionally, the risk of burnout looms large, affecting both women and men in customer service. 

According to Zendesk's CX Trends Report, a mere 14% of customer service agents express extreme satisfaction with their career paths, while 38% feel that the customer service team isn't treated as well as other teams. Furthermore, less than 30% feel empowered to excel in their roles.

3. Gender pay gaps and empowerment challenges.

Despite outnumbering men in customer service roles, women encounter significant gender pay gaps, particularly in lower-level positions. This disparity exacerbates the struggle for financial security and career advancement. 

Moreover, the lack of empowerment within the CX industry perpetuates feelings of frustration among women, leading many to consider leaving the workforce or stepping down to lower-level positions.

In the face of these challenges, women in CX are resilient and proactive, leading initiatives to foster positive change and empower their peers. Mentorship emerges as a critical factor in navigating these obstacles, providing aspiring female leaders with the support, guidance, and advocacy needed to overcome barriers and ascend the corporate ladder.

As women strive for equality and recognition in customer service, their determination and resilience pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable industry landscape.

3 female leaders to inspire you.

1. Jeanne Bliss.

A renowned figure in the world of customer experience. With over 25 years of experience as a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), she now leads her consultancy, CustomerBliss, guiding CCOs and C-Suite executives globally. 

Jeanne is also a best-selling author with two popular books, "Chief Customer Officer" and "I Love You More Than My Dog," and her latest work, "Chief Customer Officer 2.0 – How To Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine." She emphasizes the power of customer advocacy with her favorite quote,

 "Customers who love you will market for you more powerfully than you can possibly market yourself."  ~ Jeanne Bliss.

2. Yamini Rangan.

Yamini is currently the CEO of Hubspot, and previously served as the company's first Chief Customer Officer. With a wealth of experience in customer-facing leadership roles, she believes in aligning marketing, sales, and operations around the customer to create promoters out of customers.

“When you put the customer at the center and start aligning marketing, sales, and operations around the customer…if you continue to delight them…they become promoters.” ~ Yamini Rangan

3. Diana De Jesus

Diana De Jesus stands as a prominent figure in the Customer Success industry, leveraging over a decade of experience in B2B SaaS to empower businesses and elevate customer satisfaction. 

As a former Customer Success Manager Strategist at Catalyst Software, Diana honed her expertise in retaining and satisfying customers, ultimately fostering business growth for her clients. Co-creator of the 'Open Book of Customer Success,' Diana remains committed to equipping Customer Success professionals with invaluable resources. 

With a dedication to fostering professional growth, Diana founded The Customer Success Project, providing tailored coaching and training to advance careers in the field. Through her advocacy for self-advocacy and transparency, Diana continues to inspire and empower individuals in the Customer Success realm.

You can find more female leaders here.

These remarkable women exemplify leadership excellence in the customer experience sector, but it's important to recognize and appreciate all women in customer experience leadership and support roles for their invaluable contributions. 

Let's celebrate the achievements of women in customer service and continue advocating for a more inclusive and equitable industry landscape.

Adebukola Ajayi

Content Marketing Manager, Simpu
I am a writer who loves to watch modern family and friends during my free time.

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