gender pay gap in the freelance economy

Gender Pay Gap In The Freelance Economy: What We’ve Learnt So Far

How come we are still talking about the gender pay gap in 2018?

If you think the whole issue is a bogus one, think again. If you’re a woman, mind the pay gap. If you’re a female freelancer, there’s still hope for you.

Here’s what we’ve learnt about the gender pay gap so far.

Why is gender pay gap a problem (for everyone)?

Let’s kick this off the right way. What’s the gender pay gap, anyway?

The gender pay gap refers to the difference in median earnings between men and women. This difference is expressed as a percentage of male earnings and typically varies across different industries, professions and regions.

Despite the obvious unfair reality that women get paid less on average than their male counterparts, often for the same or comparable work (due to reasons that we’ll look at later on), the gender pay gap also reduces women’s lifetime earnings and consequently, their pension, contributing significantly to women’s poverty later in life. And that’s just wrong.

What seems common sense even to the first-graders, somehow gets normalised and integrated into our lives as we’re growing up. In honour of the International Women’s Day, Norwegian trade union Finansforbundet carried out an experiment with children, asking them to fill two vases with pink and blue balls. Once the task had been completed, boys were rewarded with far more sweets than girls. See the kids react to this unusual decision.

More than 120 years after the pay inequality issue was first raised in the UK, the gender pay gap persists. Why? Let’s look at what the latest research data in the UK and around the world suggests.

So, how big is the gap?

Sadly, the gap is still much bigger than one would expect it to be.

The mean gender pay gap for full-time work is reported to be at 14.1% and jumps to 18.4% when part-time work is included. Although it is supposedly decreasing over time, the progress simply isn’t fast enough.

Following the new law which requires all public and private organisations in Britain with more than 250 or more employees to report the difference between what they pay men and women, we’re learning the gender pay gap situation is still an embarrassment to the modern-day society.  

As of the time of writing, 77% of nearly 3000 companies that had reported said they pay men more than women on average, 9% have managed to close the pay gap and 14% said they pay women more than men.

Essentially, what this means is that women in the UK work for free for more than two months a year, or 67 days to be precise (however, compared to some other European countries, the British women are still quite lucky; see the map below). The figure can be even higher in certain sectors. In the education sector, for example, the pay gap runs at 26.5%, meaning the average female worker works more than 90 days without a pay. In the finance and insurance sector, the pay gap is larger, sitting at 35.6%.  

(Source)

The pay inequality at some of the country’s best-known universities is also staggering. For example, the University of Manchester reported: “an 87% median bonus pay gap, indicating that for every £1 paid to a male employee in bonus pay, a woman would receive 13p on average”. The University of Liverpool reported a 19% median hourly gap and a 90% bonus gap (and the list goes on).

Although the pay gap does not measure the pay difference between men and women at the same pay grade, doing the same job, with the same working pattern, the recent pay inequality scandals at BBC, Goldman Sachs and many other leading organisations allow us to suspect that women often get paid less than their male counterparts for producing identical work.

According to The Independent, “more than 120 female BBC employees who believe they are being paid unfairly in comparison to male colleagues” have taken their cases to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

What makes the BBC case even worse is that it suggests the pay gap is part of a wider problem: “Behind the headline and most important issue of equal pay at the BBC we believe there is a wider culture of gender discrimination which can be seen in the patterns of promotion, especially after women take maternity leave.”

Another interesting example comes from the world of cinema. Claire Foy, the actress who played the Queen in the Netflix’s hit series The Crown and went on to win a Golden Globe in 2017, was paid less for the first two seasons of the show than her co-star Matt Smith because, as the official statement holds, he was more famous at the time of casting.

The abundance of data and real-life examples indicate that the issue of gender pay gap is still as relevant today as it has been 50 years ago when women machinists at the Ford Car Plant in Dagenham went on strike to demand an equal pay. After three weeks on strike, they returned to work with a small victory, securing an increase in women wages to 92% of what was paid to men for the same type of work. Still not quite equal in the end then, was it?

(Source)

As the time went by, not only was the progress on this issue sluggish but the pay gap widened in all sectors and the excuses and pretexts to pay women less got even more sophisticated.

The common excuses, and what really causes the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is a much more complex issue than it might seem at the first glance and many different reasons can cause the discrepancies in earnings between men and women.

  • Direct discrimination can be one of the reasons determining why women get paid less than men for doing the same job. While the equality legislation has greatly improved the situation, gender discrimination, as the BBC example provides, is still very much a real thing in the world of employment.
  • Even in this day and age, work is still often segregated by gender, with some jobs considered to be for men and some jobs – for women. Historically, men have always been paid more because their work supposedly called for more physical strength or special skills, while women’s work and skills were undervalued. However, when many working men left to fight the First World War and women took over most of their jobs, including tram driving and factory work, it quickly became apparent that there was nothing special about those jobs that women couldn’t do.
    A more recent example can be taken from the Birmingham City Council case, where more than 170 women who had worked as cooks, cleaners, catering and care staff for the council, won compensation because they were denied bonuses, while employees in traditionally male-dominated but similar-level jobs, such as refuse collectors, street cleaners, road workers and grave-diggers, received bonus pay. Although working women are often just as qualified, skilled and talented as their male colleagues (and are producing work of equal value), their pay grade is lower because they’re considered to be doing “women’s” (meaning, less physically or intellectually demanding) work.
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash
  • The promotion rates is another factor that comes into play here. Gender stereotypes often mean that women are passed over for promotions because they are not considered to be “strong”, “managerial” or “stable” enough to take on higher level responsibilities. Their status as mothers is also often used against them, implying that women can’t be as committed to their jobs because they have a family to look after — for some reason, being a father doesn’t seem to be a problem. As research shows, not only are men 40% more likely than women to be promoted in management roles, the progress achieved in getting more women in top leadership roles is going into reverse. In 2016, 7.8% of chief executives were women, but the figure fell to 6.5% in 2017.
  • The existing gender pay gap means that women are often forced to take on more household labour because it makes more financial sense. For example, caring for the sick and elderly, taking career breaks to look after young children and doing more housework isn’t only considered to be women’s responsibility, it’s also the “cheapest” solution for a family. Since women typically earn less than men, losing their paycheck at the end of the month isn’t as financially risky as other options.

    Sometimes, the reasons behind women taking more career breaks can also be driven by gender stereotypes and the cultural and societal pressures that come with them. In the end, the sacrifices that women have to make to care for their loved ones come back to hurt their careers, as they struggle to get back into employment as well as suffer from a lack of career progression opportunities and an unfair pay.  

How are women fighting the pay gap?

Besides women’s marches, strikes and even legal cases that women are using to bring employers to justice, they also have a quieter and increasingly more popular way of fighting back — going freelance.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

IPSE found that between 2008 and 2017, the number of the solo self-employed increased by 34% and now constitute 14% of the UK’s workforce, which amounts to approximately 4.4 million skilled professionals. Women make up 35% of the total self-employed workforce.

The report doesn’t stop there. While the number of women working for themselves has grown rapidly, the number of self-employed working mothers shows an even more astonishing growth. The total number of highly skilled freelance mothers has almost doubled since 2008, exhibiting an increase of 96%.

According to our own research, self-employed women earn almost 43% more per hour than employed women. And nearly 7% of women said they earned between 90% and 100% more than they did as an employee. However, despite the obvious financial benefits, most women cited freedom and flexibility as key motivators for the change in their career.

In theory, the gig economy could fix the gender pay gap because women set their own rates. And while many female freelancers are raking in double the money they used to make as employees, others suffer from something known as “self-sabotage”, as they set their own rates much lower than their male counterparts. Lack of confidence, pressure from clients and industry competition are often amongst the most common reasons holding women freelancers back. To close the pay gap, women freelancers must learn how to negotiate with confidence and charge what they’re worth. 

There’s a long way to go until the gender pay gap truly closes, but we have made impressive strides since the day women started fighting for their rights. A society where individuals are rewarded for their merit, regardless of their sex, age, colour or beliefs, is a society worth fighting for, so let’s keep on marching forward.

Kelly Jane
Kelly Jane
PeoplePerHour
Kelly is PeoplePerHour marketing expert. She has a wealth of experience in digital and social media marketing. As a freelancer, she has been committed in helping small businesses grow by offering them agile and result-driven marketing services.
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Rakibul Islam
Rakibul Islam

I learn more about gender pay gap.
Thanks a lot!!

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

If women were truly paid less than men, for exactly the same level/quality/amount of work as men, then every company/firm on the planet would hire only women – to pay less in wages and create more in profit…let that sink in…think about it. Tell me if my statement is incorrect. Don’t go off on a dozen tangents – deal exactly with what I have said.

Alexander
Alexander

That’s matter. Keep us informed!

Val Pavliuchenko
Val Pavliuchenko

And it’s fair that men are paid more than women. For what you pay? Men are more focused on achieving the goal, men quickly grasp information than women. A man is born to achieve his goals, go on a career ladder, etc. A man is friendly with technology, and a woman with cosmetics.

Val Pavliuchenko
Val Pavliuchenko

If women performed quality jobs, then the companies hired them and not us men. All companies in the world prefer to work with men and pay more money – because they get quality work. Women are still far from us.

Juste Semetaite
Juste Semetaite

Hi Val,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue. I would avoid using the word “us” when discussing pay inequality — I doubt many modern men would side with you on this.

James McKay
James McKay

This is an interesting article and I applaud you for producing it. However, I feel you’re misrepresenting the data. Early in the article, you suggest the pay gap exists “often for the same or comparable work”, you then go on to ask how big the pay gap is (14%+). However, the data doesn’t suggest that. For men and women in comparable roles, the gap decreases to around 2% (which still isn’t good). So the critical question is why the distribution of the highest paid jobs not evenly distributed amongst sexes (and for that matter ethnic groups etc). But that question… Read more »

Rahul Jaikar
Rahul Jaikar

this matter more curious.

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

Hi Juste, would you care to address my initial statements?

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

Juste, you really need to see the flaws in your arguments: “Historically, men have always been paid more because their work supposedly called for more physical strength or special skills, while women’s work and skills were undervalued. However, when many working men left to fight the First World War and women took over most of their jobs, including tram driving and factory work, it quickly became apparent that there was nothing special about those jobs that women couldn’t do…” 1. Do you really think that tram driving and factory work are the most physically demanding jobs a man needs to… Read more »

Juste Semetaite
Juste Semetaite

Jay, As much as I appreciate you taking the time to read the article and share your thoughts, I must say I am deeply disappointed with the narrative you’ve constructed in your comment. I’m only responding because I take this as a personal insult, not a valid critique of my writing. The factor of physical strength aside, let me ask you what creates more value in the society — a man wielding a gun or a woman caring for the wounded? Although you’re right in saying that there were fewer women fighting in the First World War, it wasn’t for… Read more »

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

Juste, the fact that you play the oppressed victim (women constantly do this) by taking my comments as an insult (when they were not at all directed to you in a personal or negative way) and the fact that you completely avoid addressing my comments specifically by raising points which have nothing do to with the very clear arguments I have made, shows me very clearly that you are not open to honest, intelligent and constructive dialogue. The way you immediately cry as a victim the moment I do not agree with your opinion is typical of so many of… Read more »

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

P.S. Partly during WWII my grandmother was a nurse at North Manchester hospital and my grandfather was fighting the Germans in Dunkirk. They both played important roles in the war, but my grandmother could not have possibly performed the same job as my grandfather – because of her physical and emotional weaknesses as a woman. No amount of indignant tantrums or self-delusion can change this fact.

Alexander
Alexander

Well done, Jay! That’s the really reasonable argues.

Juste: PPH is all about a freelance and all around. Could you please write something about a design or a coding or a copywriting without of all of that “gaps and genders”? 🙂

Bitofboth
Bitofboth

And PPH goes full SJW. YEY…………. Keep this crap out the workplace please

Lucas DS
Lucas DS

Juste Semetaite, Although Jay Brown doesnt need any back up to argue against you, I decided to point out few things either way. For starter I am not bias towards my gender. Just like I find ridiculous male using the term MGTOW I find the same with Female using the term Feminism. Also before I go on, why call it feminism? if it’s aimed at gender equality, why not “Gender Equality”? since both gender has its pros and cons? Either way that doesnt matter to this argument. “The factor of physical strength aside, let me ask you what creates more… Read more »

Juste Semetaite
Juste Semetaite

I understand reading is a demanding task. Please have a look here, there are lots of colourful pictures illustrating the gender pay gap in the UK:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/ng-interactive/2018/apr/04/gender-pay-gap-when-does-your-company-stop-paying-women-in-2018

Owais Ahmed
Owais Ahmed

Very informative

Richard
Richard

Juste Thank you for the excellent article. You know that you are on the right track when some men protest. I have worked for large and small companies in the UK and there is no doubt that there is Gender Pay Gap. Reviewing salaries in my teams I could see it….. even in new hires. It was not that people overtly wanted to pay women less – the reasons are a lot more complex. E.g. if you are a PA (often women) you get paid less than a business analyst (often men) for similar skills, etc. And it is not… Read more »

Juste Semetaite
Juste Semetaite

Richard, thank you for chiming in with your real-life experience. The comment section was getting very depressing very quickly, so I’m relieved to see that there are people who understand that gender pay gap isn’t about who is stronger or faster.

Richard
Richard

Val

In many counties, including the UK, paying people with the same skills & experience, etc, different salaries based on gender, race and other factors is illegal. That is not what the Gender Pay Gap is about.

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

Richard. If truth is offensive, would you suggest living a lie instead to prevent getting hurt feelings?

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

By the way I don’t think anybody is actually disputing the fact that there is a pay gap, as clearly women ARE paid less than men. The question is why, and the answer is simple –
men work harder, longer and more productively – they achieve more. Men know this. Women know it deep down but many of them will not admit it.

Richard
Richard

Jay

The truth is not offensive – I find your language and the way that you attacked the author as offensive – wasn’t that your aim?

You do not have a monopoly on the truth. It’s always a shame to hear that people still want to fight against equality. What exactly is wrong with equality?

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

Richard, My aim is always the truth. Nothing more. I have seen so much damage done in this world because of people hiding from the truth. The problem with equality is that it does not exist, anywhere in nature, and certainly not in humans – we are all different. I have an issue with team members not pulling their weight and dragging other team members down yet still expecting the same rewards as the team’s best. That’s the simplest and quickest analogy I can think of at this moment. Anyway Richard you are clearly on the left and I am… Read more »

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

“I find your language and the way that you attacked the author as offensive…” – I care only about facts, not feelings. Evidence, not emotions. Proof, not perception.

You had your feelings hurt by my opinion Richard, because it is different than yours. Welcome to the real world. Live with it.

dawood zubair
dawood zubair

The Payroll should be equal , if the women performed quality job as men.

Richard
Richard

Jay I did not have my feelings hurt by your opinions – but by your personal attack on the author. I am sorry that you are not able to understand that. Suggesting that I did – was again wrong. Being on the right of politics is nothing to be proud of – it is deeds and actions that count. You have not understood equality if you describe it as you do – I am sure that not embracing equality suits your way of life. Please feel free to put me in any box you like. – left, feminist, gay, black… Read more »

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

A pleasure. You have so much yet to learn Richard and so much of the world yet to experience. I wish you good luck on your venture for the truth.

James
James

Freelancing is the epitome of meritocracy, and the amount which a candidate is paid is directly relative to how well they present themselves on the professional market – and how much a potential client is willing to pay based on their perception of ability. Juste, if you feel that the pay gap has affected you in the freelance economy then perhaps you should try marketing yourself as a male to put your hypothesis to test! I personally believe that both men and women should be treated as individuals rather than collective groups, and from my experience (or at least within… Read more »

Luis Manzo
Luis Manzo

Yes, and also what about the funding gap that female entrepreneurs and female led startups miss out on? There are reports of that gap being even wider in favor of men, who probably do most of the hiring here on PPH! I’d love to see an article on the funding gap also, let’s not forget female job creators matter just as much as the female job seekers.

Rick Grimes
Rick Grimes

Seriously? PPH is diving into this too? There have been dozens of studies on this issue and they do not actually reflect what is being touted on this article. The difference between the INTERESTS and PRIORITIES of men and women are the 2 most significant reasons for the so called “Gender Pay Gap”. It’s fine if you believe this. But for those who don’t need Safe Spaces who are actually interested to hear/see the other side of the argument, and are not afraid to maybe have your belief shaken or at least put in doubt, just search for the keywords… Read more »

Jay Brown
Jay Brown

Rick don’t forget Stefan Molyneux 🙂

Anthony Tornambe
Anthony Tornambe

good article, I have bookmarked it.

Nicken Kotak
Nicken Kotak

There are a number of reasons why women tend to get paid less than men. Gender is only one of perhaps 15 or 20 reasons why. Gender is a small reason why women tend to get paid less. Try asking millennials about the gender pay gap. In 2018, on average more women are shortlisted for jobs, women have a better chance as employers are actively looking for women, in general under 30 women are are being paid more for the same kind of work as men. Why should women get a preference? Why should men get a preference? Neither should.… Read more »

Ash Kay
Ash Kay

Pay gap is a myth, do your research before you write. I cannot believe an article like this is supported by a credible website. Just like Jay Brown said, if it were really true then we would only find companies full of women since and intelligent business manager would hire the cheapest workers who can do the same amount of work. What about tennis where men play 5 sets and women play 3 sets but both finalists get the same prize money? The men have to work more to earn the same amount of money. Why doesn’t anyone complain? If… Read more »

Mike Durre
Mike Durre

Men and Women and very different. Big Media has hoodwinked many, like this well-meaning author, into believing men and woman are exactly the same…and any difference in outcome is discrimination.

Deep down, we all know why men get paid more than women. Even the author understands (see the last sentence in the second to last paragraph.

Shawn Meike
Shawn Meike

Freedom of speech is important. No doubt about that. But I find it extremely weird to stumble across an identity-politics article on a business site. There are better platforms for those. Rubbish bin comes to mind first, followed by CNN in the second place.

shuborna yesmin
shuborna yesmin

Very informative

Mark Shrigley
Mark Shrigley

Oh great – another left wing article. Will pass on it…

Christopher Laing
Christopher Laing

This is one of the first articles I have read where it discusses personal responsibility in the determining what we get paid. Companies should have more pay transparency no question. This is a matter for both sexes. However, it really concerns me that seemingly intelligent people use statistics and examples out of context. The market often determines the rate and it discriminates mainly on marketability (particularly on TV) of the actors. Matt Smith was the first Doctor Who to be BAFTA nominated in his first series. Let’s not be selective in our evidence gathering. I’m sure Claire Foy will be… Read more »

Mateo D. Corral
Mateo D. Corral

All must be equal.

Mike
Mike

There is no such thing in a world as equality. We always differ between each other, and most people won’t be able to earn more than let say $50,000 a year. We differ in height, build, strength, agility, IQ, memory, education and more. Remember that any kind of requests can be made against government companies. Public company director has only one thing to think about. Company good being. Nothing else. If market pays X for a certain job, then he will hire appropriate person with least salary requirements. No one aim at paying less to women, it is a capitalism,… Read more »

Joe C
Joe C

Hi all, I know that there are a lot of very strong opinions on this topic but I will try to stay within my own personal experiences. Most of my experiences with this started in college. I went to a school that was, up until the 1970s, an all girls college. I did not have much money and had to work full time while going to school full time. I transferred in from a community school with a 3.88 GPA and some really strong recommendations from past professors, hoping to qualify from some needs based/academic scholarship. I qualified for nothing… Read more »

Richard
Richard

Mike I know that you have fixed views and nothing will change them but…. here are a few thoughts ‘ I think that you mean that there is no such things as your ‘definition’ of equality. So I agree that people should be paid the same for exactly same education, skills, attitude, experience, working hours, etc. (I would suggest outputs rather than inputs but that is another point). But given that, they should not be paid differently or have different opportunities based on their gender. Are you suggesting that people have never been discriminated against? Women have never been paid… Read more »

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