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Have we outsourced sexual harassment?

As Western companies increasingly turn to Indian labor, they must be willing to acknowledge and confront widespread sexual harassment of female employees in India.

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The next time your customer service call is picked up by a female voice in India consider this: Is she safe?

We know about the desperate situations experienced by India’s poorest living in remote villages, lacking education and food to thrive. But what about the women who write software, answer calls, and process transactions inside the billion-dollar outsourcing industry inside India?

According to The Hackett Group, the United States and the European Union lost 1.1 million jobs over the last two years. While some jobs disappeared entirely because of poor economics or innovation, most were outsourced. Hackett expects 1.3 million additional jobs to disappear by 2014. Moving these jobs to lower wage markets looks great on balance sheets, but it’s time to ask: Have we also outsourced sexual harassment?

88 percent suffer harassment

In November 2010, the New Delhi-based Centre for Transforming India reported that 88 percent of women inside India’s outsourcing community experienced sexual harassment on the job. Most, 83 percent, never reported it.

Sexual harassment in India is not a new problem inside India’s information technology community, which is largely composed of Indian outsourcers and a few Western firms. In 2008, outrage broke out when MJ Sonia committed suicide and left a note behind implicating two of her superiors for repeated sexual harassment that had become so untenable, she took her own life.

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