Although there are always exceptions, women are said to earn anywhere from just $0.72 to $0.82 per dollar brought in by their similarly qualified male counterparts. It's a concept known as the wage gap, and it's without a doubt a huge point of contention among female workers in a wide range of industries.
But while the wage gap has been prevalent for a long time among salaried workers, new data suggests that it extends to the world of self-employment as well. Among freelance men and women, males outearn females by an average of 28%, according to a study by FreshBooks, a Toronto-based accounting and invoicing company.
Now, on the one hand, to see such a substantial gap between freelance men and women is surprising, especially since self-employed workers have the option to set their own rates. But doing so is easier said than done. In fact, 20% of self-employed females feel they have no choice but to charge less than their male equivalents to attract and retain clients, while 34% have experienced gender discrimination in the course of being self-employed.
When we look at some specific numbers within the self-employment space, the problem becomes all the more clear. Among self-employed men and women with businesses serving at least 100 clients, the median revenue among females in information technology is $70,908. Median revenue for men who run IT businesses, however, is $139,969. The gap widens further among professionals in the marketing and communications field, with women-led businesses bringing in a median revenue of $163,875, versus $248,140 for those run by men.
Of course, it's easy to blame this glaring disparity on public attitudes toward males versus females. And this isn't to say that a bias doesn't exist. However, if women really want to see better income equality in the freelance world, they'll need to change their own mind-set as well.
Know what you're worth
If you're tired of being shortchanged as a self-employed female, you'll need to take steps to make things fair. To start, do some research to see what the going rates are in your industry, and build up your business so that you're able to charge them. Clients will sometimes make every excuse in the book to pay you the lowest rate possible (regardless of whether you're male or female), so don't give them a reason to think their lowball offers will fly. Instead, market yourself, increase your client base, improve your offerings, and present a sound case for commanding a higher rate than what you've previously been charging.
Along these lines, don't be afraid to turn down a client who won't pay you what you're worth. Unless there's another compelling reason to take on that work (say, it's a big name in your industry that would give you better credibility as you're first building your business), save your precious hours for the clients who are willing to pay you fairly.
Another thing? Make a point of showcasing your best work, whether via an online business portfolio or an extensive list of published reviews from satisfied clients. The people who hire you will want assurance that they're getting their money's worth, so if you go in prepared, you're more likely to convey that point.
Finally, have confidence in yourself. This is something that might come with time, but if you take the attitude that you're worth whatever money you're looking to charge, more and more clients will come to see it that way, too.
If you feel that your business is suffering financially due to the fact that you're female, it's time to remedy the problem yourself rather than sit back and wait for a solution to land in your lap. Unfortunately, the wage gap isn't showing signs of going away, but you can, at the very least, attack it individually.