New perspectives on language and gender: Linguistic prescription and compliance in call centres

Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2017). New perspectives on language and gender: Linguistic prescription and compliance in call centres. Language in Society, 46(5) pp. 674–695.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404517000574

Abstract

Despite a shift to service-based economies, male-dominated, high-status workplaces have been the predominant focus of research into language and gender in the workplace. This study redresses this shortcoming by considering one female-dominated, low-status, highly regimented workplace that is emblematic of the globalized service economy: call centres. Drawing on 187 call centre service interactions, institutional documents, interviews, and observations from call centres in two national contexts, the study employs an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative discourse-analytic techniques to compare rule compliance of male and female workers. Female agents in both national contexts are found to comply more with the linguistic prescriptions despite managers and agents emphatically denying the relevance of gender. The study offers a new perspective on language and gender, pointing to the need to expand the methodologies and theories currently favoured to understand how language perpetuates occupational segregation in twenty-first-century workplaces.

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