How the Ever Prevalent Gender Wage Gap is Hurting the Self-employed Woman

If you don’t know that there exists a gender wage gap, who are you and where are you living? Those of us who do know about it, we’re all thinking about the corporate heavyweights who are bursting at the seams from withholding the money that women deserve for doing the same job as their male counterparts. However, people often tend to overlook the self-employed sector which also has its own set of biases like any other sphere of employment. While working a conventional office job, you might not get a raise or be paid the same as a man who is your equal, so, you may think that being your own boss is the best way forward; ‘I’ll get to set my own rate, and therefore salary, and as long as I work hard, I’ll make what I deserve.’ However, this isn’t always the case since self-employed women face the gender pay gap too. Cloud accounting company Freshbooks states that self-employed women make 28 percent less than self-employed men, also self-employed women have to charge clients less in order to attract more business and retain it. 

“There’s no reason to think that just because we’re contractors, suddenly we’ll be paid equally”

One of the most common reasons why the gender wage gap exists in this sector is that women feel compelled to lower their rates due to stiff competition and there are so many women-owned businesses today than ever before which makes it even harder to stand out. Diane Mulcahy, author of The Gig Economy says, “Companies still have to address their own biases around compensation, regardless of the status of the worker. There’s no reason to think that just because we’re contractors, suddenly we’ll be paid equally.” Also, women who are their own bosses also have to juggle family and aging parents even more than ever since a majority of them operate from their home office. 

Men want to be their own boss, women want better work-life balance

The reasons why men and women choose self-employment differs; while men want to be their own boss, women want better work-life balance. When we talk about work-life balance, it is most often relegated as a working woman’s issue since childcare and caregiving are deemed her domain. Just look at any large corporate organizations and see how many women have decided to quit after having children. The truth is that childcare is an expensive affair and women will have to spend their entire salary on some else who will look after the children. On the other hand, some people say that it’s a woman’s choice if she chooses caregiving then she must accept a lesser salary where she is, full-time or self-employed work. However, a majority of women don’t make these choices because if she does not pick up the kids after school, who will? Self-employed women don’t have it easier than the woman who works full-time in an office, she has it the same, if not worse. Therefore, the gender wage gap simply does not disappear after becoming a self-employed woman, rather it widens.

If self-employed workers set their own rates, why aren’t women at the top of their game?

Experts reveal that all spheres of the working world have biases, however, women can do something about this. Step one, know your worth since women are getting too used to being shortchanged in the industry, they are not treating themselves at par with others. After doing your homework and getting to know industry rates for your area of work; start at a lower price to attract clients and then increase them over time at a good pace. Generally speaking, women do not negotiate as much as men do and in the area of self-employment, the skill of negotiating is indispensable. So, women must negotiate and add in the confidence. Also, many self-employed women make the mistake of doing everything on their own without any help, from content creation to social media management. How about hiring a content writer or a social media manager to do these things for you so you can actually focus on other things; one can’t be great at everything, you know. In addition to this, take the time to learn new skills that will enhance your existing ones and make you one of the most-wanted self-employed women in your sphere of work.

Therefore, it is paramount that women network wherever possible, while also attending various virtual conferences and events that can help them meet new people to expand their contacts. Networking doesn’t just benefit you as a self-employed worker, but also the other person and therefore, instead of competing with another self-employed woman we must raise the bar for the collective good of everyone. Competing for lower prices is simply dragging everyone down, but negotiating for a higher price benefits everyone, not just the individual. So, while the self-employed realm fights for a fair wage for all genders, it’s time women also grab hold of the reigns, without any fear. It’s what you deserve; a fair wage is not a luxury. 

Image credit: Forbes

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