Gig Economy – through the Gender Lens

Home » Gig Economy – through the Gender Lens

By Paul Randhip
Chicago made history by electing its first African American Female Mayor. 
US made history by electing 110 diverse women to Congress. 
Intel announced that it had achieved ‘full representation’ based on available talent pool. 

Headlines such as these often tend to paint an image of gender and diversity equality. Peel back the layers of the onion, and the stark reality will reveal itself. In the case of the US Congress, women make up a measly 25% of the Senate and an even smaller percentage of the House of Representatives. And in the case of Intel’s announcement, ‘full representation’ equates to a 27% female workforce. 

A far cry from true full-representation when considering general population ratios.

While significant gains are being made in achieving economic gender parity and women have made remarkable strides in both social and economic sectors, one cannot deny that inequality persists. Most organizations still have a long way to go when it comes to reaching true gender equality.  Women continue to earn less than men in the same roles (by an estimated pay gap of 20% based on data from the US Census Bureau), and are still highly underrepresented in senior and executive positions. And, this is despite the fact that the female population is considered to be more educated than the male population (According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women make up more than 56% of college students nationwide).  And here’s the rub. In its Gender Pay Gap Report, the World Economic Forum estimated that, at the current rate of progress, it will take more than 200 years for the gender pay gap to disappear. Read that again. Over 200 years!

Thankfully, there is ongoing revolution in the workplace that most of us are already a part of (either purposefully or inadvertently) that could contribute to significantly quickening the pace on this journey. The revolution that I am referring to is the ‘Gig Economy’.

People that work in the Gig Economy to a great extent get to choose the hours they work and even where they work, and this enables them to achieve a work-life balance of their preference.  This is especially advantageous for women who often tend to shoulder household and childcare responsibilities in addition to their professional work, as they can now fit both work and care-giving into their schedules. And also, the Gig Economy provides the opportunity to earn ‘higher wages’ in comparison to similarly skilled workers in a traditional employment setting. Unsurprisingly, a recent report by Harvard University revealed that in the last decade the number of women working in the gig-economy has outgrown that of men. 

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation / New York Times poll, 75% of US homemakers indicated that they would go back to work if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home. And as a result, more and more organizations too are starting to realize that they can get highly experienced talent (that might have otherwise been unavailable to them) on an as-needed, on-demand basis.

While some may argue that ‘freelancing’ impedes career growth and does not offer ‘job security’, contractors that participate in the gig economy often tend to make significantly more than their counterparts in the traditional employment model, and value ‘work flexibility’ over ‘job security’. For companies too, this generally works out favorably, since they are paying for just 10-20 of those hours per week instead of 40-plus, and more importantly get access to talent that might otherwise have been unavailable to them. A true win-win.

With all that being said, one would be mistaken to jump to the conclusion that the Gig Economy’ is the holy grail to solving the gender inequality problem. Unless gig economy platforms and participating organizations proactively hardwire gender parity by enforcing policies that monitor and clamp down discrimination of any form at these relatively early stages of their formation, it will not be long before the gender inequality woes of the traditional workplace creep into this new workforce marketplace.

That being said, these are undoubtedly exciting times for not only professionals that seek new employment models that provide them with a work-life balance that is more suited to their lifestyles, but also companies that have renewed access to talent that is key to their business goals and initiatives. Through platforms such as FlexForce (https://divihn.com/professional-workforce-solutions/flexforce/) that serve as a bridge between the knowledge-worker and the client communities, DivIHN strives to make an impactful contribution to both communities alike.