Clare Muscutt

Clare Muscutt, Women in CX: "70% of the CX workforce are women, but only 30% are in management"


International Women's Day coincides with the two-year anniversary of the launch of Women in CX -  the world's first online community for women in customer experience. We speak with the founder about the barriers that exist to women in the world of CX. 

8th Mar 2023

International Women's Day coincides with the two-year anniversary of the launch of Women in CX (WiCX) -  the world's first online community for women in customer experience

To celebrate both IWD and the anniversary of WiCX, MyCustomer spoke with the founder of Women in CX Clare Muscutt, someone who will be very familar to our audience as one of the judges of our annual CX Leader of the Year programme. 

Here she discusses the growth of WiCX and the barriers that exist to women in the world of customer experience management. 

MyCustomer. You launched WiCX on International Women’s Day, 2021. How would you describe how the first two years have been for the development of the community - and for yourself leading it?

Clare Muscutt. It’s been incredibly humbling to see the community grow from 30 founding members in 2021 to a global network of thousands of women, sponsors and supporters all over the world. My initial vision was to build an online community for women to support one another during the pandemic. But thanks to our members, WiCX has since evolved in ways I never imagined.

Our paid membership is now known as the ‘Inner Circle’ and part of something far bigger. With our members at the epicentre, we have started to offer; resourcing, consulting, courses, conferences, corporate memberships, speaker services, coaching, sponsorships, media partnerships and even local chapter in-person events, led by our members themselves, all over the globe. As more businesses join the movement for human-centred business and partner with us to promote DEI in the CX and tech industry, I am sure we will continue to diversify even further, which as a leader, is an exciting prospect indeed.

I can honestly say running a startup has been the hardest yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.It’s been a steep learning curve for myself and my wonderful team - seriously, they are amazing and WiCX wouldn’t have gotten to this point without their willingness to learn alongside me. Bootstrapping has meant learning skills ‘on the job’ most of the time and the growth we have all experienced as a result of living permanently at the edge of our comfort zones has been immeasurable. 

I am so proud of everything we have delivered as a community, team and collective of women. The fact that opening this space has created so many opportunities for everyone involved feels like we are already well on our way to achieving our big vision to actively shape the future of CX by promoting DEI in the CX and tech industry.

If 70% of the workforce in CX are women, why are there only 30% in management and even fewer where it matters most, in positions of power and influence that influence CX and technology?

MyC. What was the main driving force behind setting up WiCX?

CM. It’s a long story that started with my own need for connection at the start of the pandemic, when I watched my own successful CX design agency and speaking business go down the pan less than two years after making the brave move to leave my well-paid, secure head of CX job at a major retailer. 

During my two years in the ‘CX spotlight’, one thing always stood out to me. I was usually the only woman on the bill at conferences, at the table in client leadership meetings, in the top five of influencers on ‘lists’ or often the only female invited to speak on ‘Manels’ at events (panels comprising white, middle-aged, male speakers). I started to wonder… If 70% of the workforce in CX are women, why are there only 30% in management and even fewer where it matters most, in positions of power and influence that influence CX and technology? And, why do so few other women outside those in the USA have a public platform?

So, with time on my hands I decided to do something about it. By starting something that was originally intended to be a passion project. I launched the “Inspiring Women in CX'' podcast as a way to use my platform to amplify the voices of other women in the CX and tech industry.  A community organically sprung up around the podcast on social media, and that showed me there was a clear need for something more organised. My curiosity led me to begin a research ‘Discovery' project about where women working in CX and tech most needed support, and thanks to some generous support from our founding sponsors Kantar and Arise Gaming who provided funding, eight weeks later we had an MVP platform to take to market. 

As they say, the rest is history. The driving force now is that we continue to codesign our product, service and experience hand-in-hand with our members in response to their needs. And now with an ever-evolving list of stakeholders to support, our plan is to continue to do the same by keeping true to the agile approach to CX design that guided us here.

MyC. When your community meets, what are the common themes and challenges that surface?

CM. The common themes and challenges in CX are not dissimilar to anywhere else but, as a global community, we get to see how varied those challenges are depending on the environment, industry, maturity, culture and level of change happening in and around the organisations different women work for. It is apparent to all of us now that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all approach’, framework or set of best practices that can be applied universally to get the same result. Which in my humble opinion is a problem perpetuated by many organised communities in CX. It is great to see how different WiCX is as we don’t have an agenda to get everyone to do things the same way. As our members come from such diverse backgrounds, fields and disciplines, and by sharing their questions, case studies and thoughts with one another, our members are getting exposure to a more diverse range of inspiration to shape their own ideas. This diversity of opinion and perspective is by far one of our greatest assets.

But as a community of women, these conversations are also punctuated by additional ‘non-CX’ conversations about struggles related to working in male-dominated industries, being passed over for promotion, finding it difficult to balance the demands of work and motherhood, a pervasive sense of imposter syndrome, disillusionment and our frequent experiences of gender bias. As an intersectional women’s community the conversations happening on our platform make everyone aware that the bias is not limited to gender. Whilst it is harder for women to advance ‘up the ranks’ in general, it's even harder the further away from male, white, CIS, straight, able-bodied and neurotypical we are. Many of the common challenges have been the starting point for member-led action groups, peer-to-peer support group sessions and the agenda for our content plan.

MyC. How have your community been able to help each other with challenges that are being encountered?

CM. For all of us in WiCX, knowing that we aren't the only ones struggling with commonly shared challenges is a huge relief. Because the platform is such a safe space, we can show up with a level of authenticity, vulnerability and openness that just wouldn't feel ‘OK’ in the workplace or in other professional communities we are part of. By demonstrating our community values of Courageousness, Collaboration, Inclusion and Authenticity, our members are able to help one another in a range of ways and many have found genuine friendship here. From setting up action groups on topics and challenges to take part in, to sharing knowledge and lived experience, to offering sponsorship, mentorship and even extending opportunities for work and projects, women in CX are proving that collaboration beats competition and that with a purpose-led community, we can all support one another to rise up. Some have even started new businesses together and are securing international clients! It’s mind-blowing really.

MyC. From the experiences of yourself as CEO of WiCX and your community, what are the barriers that still exist for women in leadership?

CM. While women have made progress in entering the workforce and achieving educational and professional qualifications, they continue to face systemic barriers to career advancement and leadership opportunities. Several factors contribute to the under-representation of women in leadership, including gender bias and discrimination, lack of access to networks and mentorship, and cultural and societal norms that reinforce gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles. 

You might have heard of the term, “broken rung” which is often used to describe the phenomenon of gender inequality at the entry level of corporate leadership. It refers to the idea that women are often not promoted to their first management positions at the same rate as men, which creates a “broken rung” on the ladder to higher levels of leadership.

The broken rung has a compounding effect over time, as fewer women are able to gain the experience and skills necessary to advance, which further perpetuates the gender gap in leadership positions. Plus if we choose to have children, the expectations on women to take a greater proportion of the child-rearing duties can make it harder to return to work where we left off.

Well, the ‘rung’ is significantly more ‘broken’ in the field of customer experience.

According to the 2019 report by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, women represent 47% of the general workforce and only 37% ascend to entry-level management. But, according to the Office of National Statistics, whilst women represent 70% of the workforce in customer experience, a recent study in partnership with the University of Carolina, revealed only 30% of CX professionals in management are female.

A gap of 40%, quadruple that of the mainstream.

Ultimately, everybody loses as this has significant economic consequences – it’s a known fact that companies with more gender-diverse leadership are increasingly innovative and thus, profitable. We hope to help address this by nurturing the next generation of leaders and supporting women on the way up to find the sponsorship and support they need to make the next step up.

MyC. One of the very noticeable characteristics of this sector is that despite there appearing to be at least as many female CX leaders as male (based on CX Leader of the Year applications) and the level of female expertise (three out of four CX Leader of the Year winners have been female), when it comes to events/panels/roundtables on CX topics, they are nearly entirely male! Why do you think that is and what can be done about it? 

CM. I know I personally nominated a number of women for CXLOTY who said they would not have applied if they hadn’t been encouraged to do so. Men seem to be more confident in their own abilities and better at self-promotion in the workplace and beyond. Women seem to wait to be asked sometimes rather than putting themselves forward for recognition and as a result, are less visible for the work they do. For me, it’s about being intentional. Our channels are dedicated to amplifying the voices of diverse women and giving them the confidence to be seen.

It’s a known fact that companies with more gender-diverse leadership are increasingly innovative and thus, profitable. We hope to help address this by nurturing the next generation of leaders

It warms my heart to see our members being invited to share their insights as a result of being seen shining on our podcast, speaking at our webinars and appearing on our WiCX panel debates. Our strategy of making more women visible is working as in recent months I’ve been inundated by conference organisers, awards bodies and media channels pro-actively asking me to help them source members of our community for a myriad of opportunities. My call to action on social media recently was for anyone holding or hosting any kind of content or events to prioritise diversity and be intentional about representation too. Any readers who would like some help with sourcing diverse talent, can always reach out to me directly on LinkedIn.

MyC. Based on the discussions that take place at WiCX, what advice can you share for women that are keen to become customer service/experience leaders?

CM. My advice:

  • Focus on your strengths.
  • Trust in yourself, your knowledge and abilities.
  • Don’t be afraid to take up space by being your authentic self.
  • Look for opportunities to build your self-knowledge, skills and networks.
  • Surround yourself with people who believe in you, support you and remind you of your strengths every day.
  • And, never be afraid to leave a company / boss that doesn’t recognise your value and fully support your growth.

MyC. And finally, if the Clare Muscutt from 2023 as CEO of WiCX could say something to Clare Muscutt who was just starting out her career, what would it be?

CM. My younger self was always hyper-conscious of how different she was to other people  around her. She struggled to fit in thanks to ADHD making her way of thinking (and sometimes behaving) different to others in the corporate world. I would advise my younger self to trust herself and to be who she is, instead of what the world expects her to be. To recognise that eventually, fortune favours tenacious, resilient, brave women and that entrepreneurship is just as valid a career path as climbing the corporate ladder. I’d tell her being a woman with an ambitious vision might not be what most people appreciate, but that realising your dreams was never meant for the faint-hearted. Finally, I’d say whatever comes at you, find your tribe and keep going – as no matter how hard it gets, something wonderful is always waiting just around the corner!



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