Nearshore Americas

Tackling Workplace Inequality: Some Success Stories

“Finishing School” is an English language program in Guatemala which is tackling workplace inequality by helping locals improve their English skills and qualify for jobs in global services. The program, developed by the nonprofit BPO Guatemala, is especially useful for Guatemalans who are of Indigenous or Afro-descent, as all together the group has 28 different dialects.

Jean-Pierre Wheelock, the Guatemala site director for VXI Global Solutions, said the opportunity helps people develop new skills through flexi-work and further education opportunities. In this regard, he said VXI is leading the way for global services companies in Guatemala.

Jean-Pierre Wheelock, the country manager of VXI Global Solutions in Guatemala

Wheelock told Nearshore Americas that at least 12 percent of the 2,200 students at Finishing School are of Indigenous descent.

“Most leading BPO call centers in Guatemala hire from Finishing School, not just VXI. The BPO commission developed and manages the program to support underserved communities. VXI and 14 other members to the commission are committed to its success.”

Of VXI’s 532 employees in Guatemala, one percent are of Afro-descent and four percent are Indigenous. Wheelock stressed that most Indigenous people live outside of Guatemala City, so there is not a large population to draw from inside the city.

“The majority of Indigenous communities are geographically distant from the capital,” he said. “VXI’s outreach to these groups includes free shuttle transport that extends to the outer reaches of the city. BPO’s like VXI are some of the primary organizations focused on empowering traditionally marginalized communities. VXI recognizes that diversity is a superpower, and takes active steps to diversify our workplace.”

Peter Mullen, Jr., the VP of marketing, VXI Global Solutions

Peter Mullen, Jr., VP of marketing at VXI, stresses that this is a “top-down” effort. “We are a women-led, minority-led organization. Four of our six US sites are managed by people of color. In our Los Angeles site (also our headquarters) one-third of our facility leaders are African American. On our global executive team, seven of our 11 members are minorities,” he added.

Workplace Inequality: A Need for Change

In Jamaica, the company scored a coup when it recruited a top country manager of Afro-descent. XVI immediately saw the cultural benefits, including stronger workplace performance.

Christopher Boucher, the national manager of VXI Global Services in Jamaica

The manager, Christopher Boucher, said that more than 90 percent of the company’s approximately 800 employees are of Afro-descent. But he pointed out that there are still issues which could be fixed by legislation.

He was brought in by VXI, he said, after a culture mismatch between imported managers and the local population led to an attrition rate of 10 percent. Since his arrival three months ago, that figure has dropped to three percent.

Boucher feels that legislation should be introduced requiring BPO companies to draw at least 50 percent of management from the local population, thereby enhancing cultural cohesion.

Atento, another global services provider in Latin America, told Nearshore Americas that it was “committed to the principles of diversity and equality worldwide, giving vital relevance to non-discrimination, equal opportunities and respect for people in the company.”

Atento also shared data to show nearly half (44 percent) of managers were women. However, it did not share data on other diversity markers, such as race.

Uber Supports Black Culture

Uber told Nearshore Americas that it is taking the lead in Brazil through several initiatives to promote Black culture. Karla Webb, head of Centers of Excellence: Latin America, said there are approximately 800 workers who Uber calls “direct collaborators” in its two Centers of Excellence in Costa Rica and Brazil.

Karla Webb, Uber head of Centers of Excellence: Latin America

“At Uber, we celebrate the diversity and inclusion of all people. We believe the world is better, more productive, creative, and undoubtedly happier when we can be ourselves without fear. Uber is committed to equal employment opportunities without considering race, color, family origin, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, marital status, disability status, gender identity, or veteran status.”

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Black at Uber is the company’s community for Black employees and allies. The mission of this employee resource group is to provide a channel that promotes Black diversity, culture and inclusion for all Uber employees.

In the Brazil Center of Excellence, Uber commemorated Black Consciousness Month. Webb said the initiative was designed “to reflect on the impact of slavery in Brazil.” She added that it was also “a way to honor famous people in history who fought for Black rights.”

Communication with leadership, she added, was crucial. She said her team organizes conversations with Uber’s leadership to discuss what can be done “to increase awareness, promote inclusion, and celebrate differences or the importance of diversity in the workplace.”

Black at Uber has launched initiatives such as listening forums with Black employees. Last week, Uber announced the donation of $1 million to the Center for Policing Equity and the Equal Justice Initiative. Uber Eats has also begun waiving delivery fees for 900 Black-owned businesses and is promoting those restaurants in the app. These locations were identified thanks to Uber employee insights.

Avia Ustanny-Collinder

Avia Ustanny-Collinder is a senior editor at Nearshore Americas and an award-winning business journalist residing in St. Catherine, Jamaica.

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