Beneath the glass ceiling: explaining gendered role segmentation in call centres

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Although the call centre is much researched, the literature on gender remains surprisingly undeveloped given the importance of this setting for women’s employment. This study of role segmentation in four call centres demonstrates women’s disproportionate representation in more routinized mass production roles, as opposed to higher status or managerial grades. It also analyses three explanations – human capital, domestic status and supervisor career support. The evidence shows that women face a ‘glass ceiling’, first, on entry to the call centre in terms of human capital disadvantage and levels of domestic constraint and, second, within the call centre in their ability to secure supervisor support for career opportunities. We argue that even for women with similar career aspiration and human capital to men, domestic responsibilities create obstacles before they reach the glass ceiling, especially for managerial roles, and contribute thereafter to reinforcing their concentration in more intensive, lower status work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1291-1319
Number of pages29
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number10
Early online date19 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • call centres
  • careers
  • gender
  • gender in organisations


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