Unsurprisingly, a recent report reveals that the gender pay gap doesn’t go away, even in the freelance sector. It’s fair to say that some industries see a more unequal split between genders than others, and that freelancers are still obliged to charge roughly the industry rate, so of course there is still going to be some difference in earning potential. This is very much a work in progress. But why is there still a gender split in people taking up freelance working?
Female freelance statistics
Research carried out by The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) revealed that the number of people working as highly skilled freelancers rose by 47% between 2008 and 2018.
The report by Chloe Jepps further revealed that this increase is driven in part by a 63% rise in female freelancers over the same period of time. The total contribution to the economy by freelance workers (not just female) amounted to £130 billion in 2018.
Whilst the increase in female freelancers is significant, it’s still a predominantly male work demographic. 58% of freelance workers are male, with the industry gender stereotypes standing firm too. The construction and engineering industries remain resolutely male, with female freelancers dominating in sedentary roles, hairdressing, and housekeeping.
The flexibility of freelance and child care
Most of us make the decision to go freelance based on the extra potential for earning, and for the flexibility afforded by it. Employer attitudes as well as colleague peer pressure can make the primary carer feel under a lot of pressure if child care arrangements change at the last minute.Little wonder that there has been an 80% rise in freelance working mothers since 2008.
Male versus female provision of childcare
Sadly the report doesn’t set out any data which examines the uptake of freelance working by male primary carers. Nor does it examine the distribution of their pay against non-childrearing colleagues. It’s tempting to assume that this is because male freelance pay rates are unaffected by responsibility for childcare but that’s a dangerous, and outdated, stance to take. Statistically child care is most likely to be provided by the female parent which could explain why there is an emphasis on this figure.
The gap in skilled roles is closing
The good news is that the number of women working in highly skilled roles has increased. In the 2017-2018 period there was a 4% increase in women working at the very top level. Women are going for, and getting, more of the top projects. This is perhaps reflected by the growth rate of female freelancers, though the increase of females overall compared to the increase of high ranking ones still suggests slow growth.
Do you have experience of the gaps in freelance working? We would love to hear from you!