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Impact sourcing is a beacon of hope for unemployed African women

By , Managing Director, CareerBox.
08 Mar 2024
Lizelle Strydom, Managing Director, CareerBox.
Lizelle Strydom, Managing Director, CareerBox.

Across Africa, more than 72 million youth are not in education, employment or training (NEET). That adds up to more than one in four African youth. This is a sobering figure. What’s even more concerning is that two thirds of them are young women. As we mark International Women’s Day, we must look for solutions that empower African women with employment opportunities.

Accessing the labour market is more challenging for women

Young women in sub-Saharan Africa face more difficulty in participation in the labour market. Young women disproportionately shoulder the bulk of household tasks. It is harder for women to find work compared to men, and women who find employment are often employed in low-paying jobs, where improvement prospects are limited. Young women face further barriers as they search for employment – they are likely to have less disposable income for data or transport, and they are more likely to face harassment at a job interview.

Lack of education is another significant stumbling block, and even those fortunate enough to study further are at risk. Over the past decade, the number of tertiary graduates in Africa has grown faster than the number of jobs created to accommodate these graduates, so a degree is not a guarantee of employment.

Countries’ economies benefits from closing the gender gap

There is a strong argument to be made for closing the gender gap and boosting women’s labour force participation rate. From an economic perspective, reducing gender gaps in labour force participation could substantially boost global GDP. The regions with the largest gender gaps would see huge growth benefits. The trickle-down effect of this is significant – research shows that when women are employed, their families and their entire communities receive the benefit, as women in stable employment invest in securing the basic needs for their families, and in education and opportunities for their children.

Providing women with the potential to participate in the economy is not only an engine of the growth for more resilient, sustainable and inclusive economies, but UN Women has found that companies that increase employment and leadership opportunities for women increases their organisational effectiveness and growth.

Impact sourcing can help close the gender gap

The World Bank has found that as young women develop digital skills, they may enjoy greater choice in their personal and professional lives, and access better paid, better quality jobs. A thriving digital economy depends on the presence of a sizeable and skilled tech-savvy workforce. One of the ways to achieve this goal is for companies to commit to impact sourcing to find suitable digitally-enabled candidates.

Socially responsible outsourcing strategies play an important role in promoting diversity and closing the gender gap in the workplace. Impact sourcing is an effective way for companies to demonstrate their commitment to positively impacting employment in their communities while showing social responsibility in promoting diversity and equal opportunities. Companies that have a strategic goal of recruiting more women into their organisations have positive effects both on the women who are employed and the company – Harvard Business Review found that companies that had above-average diversity and inclusion at the core of their business reported improved financial performance.

The BPO industry offers benefits to women

For young women who are disproportionately disadvantaged as job seekers, impact sourcing is a beacon of hope. The BPO sector is an industry where individuals with varied educational backgrounds and qualifications all have an opportunity to enter the workforce. Women who have not been able to complete their education, for whatever reason, find it easy to get employed in an industry where the right attitude, good communication skills and an aptitude for working with people are highly valued.

Just some of the benefits for women working in the BPO industry include better income, the ability to gain new and varied skills, and a sense of empowerment. An entry-level BPO position is likely to be their first formal job opportunity and has a massive impact on their income and their entire family’s wellbeing. Here, workplace readiness programmes are a vital cog in the impact sourcing process, as they will provide not only the technical and digital skills to master the functions required, but also the soft skills necessary to compete on an equal footing – skills such as mastering emotional intelligence, social skills and communication skills. This sets the women entering the BPO industry up for success, giving them the opportunity to thrive. The BPO industry is also geared towards on-the-job training and allows for mobility within the industry, so there is a wide range of options for women to consider beyond being an agent in a contact centre.

Increasingly, the BPO industry is providing opportunities for women. The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that women account for 60% of the global outsourcing industry’s workforce. This shows the significant impact outsourcing has had on women’s employment and income levels. Locally, industry body BPESA notes that female contact centre agents and knowledge workers continued to make up about two thirds of the South African global business services sector. This is particularly noteworthy when you consider that the ILO reports that the gender gap in South Africa between male and female labour force participation is 13.7%. CareerBox Africa has seen great success in placing women in the BPO industry in South Africa – 66% of its candidates are female and 67.14% of its placements are women, while BPO industry leader CCI has 67.14% female placements, and a female leadership equity of 52.25%, a testimony to the effect of impact sourcing on the industry.

There are many success stories of women who started out in an entry-level position on a contact centre floor and who are now managers, senior managers and even directors in BPO companies. With a focus on impact sourcing as a valuable tool for driving gender equity, we can make a significant difference in the lives of women across Africa.

Lizelle Strydom is the Managing Director of CareerBox Africa, an impact sourcing organisation which identifies and recruits talented, underprivileged youth and women, equipping them with high-demand digital skills before placing them with corporate partners. Connect with Lizelle on LinkedIn or visit https://www.careerbox.co.za/.

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