How the Sharing Economy is Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Is the sharing economy feminist? That’s the question that’s been percolating lately, but we think that’s the wrong question to ask. The prevalence of female freelancers indicates that yes, the new gig-based economy and the sharing economy are female-friendly. Women are powering the sharing economy by being both early adopters and innovators. Becoming a freelancer and jumping into the sharing economy is not easy, but according to the Freelancers Union, 53% of freelancers in 2014 were women. Freelancing is not just a way for women to work though, it’s a way for women to access the tech industry and overcome some of the major challenges that they face in the industry by working on their own terms and avoiding some of the major pitfalls of traditional workplaces. So what makes the sharing economy good for women who want to get into tech? Here are a few examples:
Even the most ambitious women often find that the traditional workplace is limited in its ability to accommodate their needs. According to a recent study, 68% of female freelancers said that flexibility was important to them and 64% said that they were driven to become freelancers because of the flexibility that it offered. However, only 20% of female freelancers said that they became independent as part of the need to have time for their children, indicating that women with all kinds of lifestyles find flexibility essential. As one Proonto associate, Marrisa Bazemore, told us, “I have never had the balance I do with Proonto. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made in regards to my career. As woman I feel I am able to still be a wife, a mother, and a successful career person without having to compromise any of it.” Women who want to develop their careers but may need flexible hours to deal with other obligations in their lives find that the sharing economy lets them jump in and use their skills without limitations.
Classically, if a couple has to move for one person’s job it is usually the husband – but research shows that this trend isn’t necessarily rooted in traditionalism. Rather, men are more likely to work in geographically-constrained fields and they may need to move locations in order to keep their jobs while women tend to go into more flexible fields. However, not every region offers quality employment and when a couple is relocated for the husband’s job, many women find themselves unable to find work that matches their skills and experience. The sharing economy allows women to work remotely doing everything from software development to sales. Proonto associate Danielle Lear described how a move that was good for her family wouldn’t have been good for her career or her sense of self if she hadn’t been able to work remotely, “A little over a year ago my family made the big move from Panama City, Florida to a small rural town in Pennsylvania. My husband had a great job and I decided to stay at home with our four children. Although I loved being able to stay at home and not having to leave the kids at a daycare, I found myself getting bored and depressed. I was used to having a full time job and financially contributing to our household. I finally made the decision to find a job I could do from home.”
The world is a big place, but for women who live in rural or isolated locations it’s the internet that gives them access to take advantage of all kinds of opportunities. Shanna Anderson, a seasoned Proonto associate describes why the sharing economy is ideal for women, “Proonto makes the world a smaller place – bringing associates and companies from around the world together, opening opportunities to work with companies we’d never have the opportunity to connect with.” Platforms like Proonto and other similar solutions allow women everywhere to work with innovative companies around the world. For Danielle and others like her, the sharing economy is a way to access jobs on a higher level that what might be available locally.
Transparency in Wages
Today in the United States, women make an average of 83 cents on the dollar compared to men’s wages. There are many theories about why this is the case, but at the end of the day research still shows that even when women do everything that they are told to do to get ahead they still have slower wage growth than men and do not advance as quickly in their careers. In the sharing economy though, there is an unprecedented level of transparency that allows women to know if they are earning a fair wage and demand to be paid equally for equal services rendered. Consider a marketplace like Proonto, or Fiverr, or even other platforms like Uber that have nothing to do with tech. In the sharing economy the amount that people are paid for their work is readily available. This gives women leverage in negotiations and allows them to demand fair pay confidently.
Access and Opportunities
The advantages of the sharing economy for skilled women who want to get into tech and advance their careers really boils down to those two words: access and opportunities. The sharing economy is flexible at its core because it runs on results, not on punching the clock at 9 and 5. Women who are more than capable of making major contributions to companies but may be limited by family obligations, location, or may feel that they can’t get ahead can use the logistics of the sharing economy to their advantage. There’s no question that when it comes to women in tech there’s much lacking and much work to be done, but it’s clear that the sharing economy is contributing to creating solutions for women.