No wonder women like freelancing

Women make very good freelancers, and they are turning to this career path in increasing numbers

A major reason is because full-time employment has never — and still doesn’t — work well for us. In the latest news on this topic, the 2018 Women in the Workplace study from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company reveals some depressing numbers about how women are faring in today’s full-time-employee work world. 

Women are squeezed out

As the chart below makes clear, women are squeezed out of the workplace as they climb the career ladder. The higher up you go, the fewer and fewer women remain. 

U.S. workplaces are generally hostile to women and their needs. Spending time in these environments makes many women’s decision to leave the workforce feel less like a choice than a relief. 

The report reveals that women don’t stand a chance of being treated equally:

Women are left behind from the get-go. The two biggest drivers of the pipeline are hiring and promotions, and companies are disadvantaging women in these areas from the beginning. Although women earn more bachelor’s degrees than men, they are less likely to be hired into entry-level jobs. At the first critical step up to manager, the disparity widens further. Women are less likely to be hired into manager-level jobs, and they are far less likely to be promoted into them. Largely because of these gender gaps, men end up holding 62% of manager positions, while women hold only 38%.

Women are treated poorly

As well as systematically holding women back, workplaces are also rife with harassment and disregard for women’s needs:

  • The majority of women — 64% — face microagressions at work.
  • More than a third of women — 35% — have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace at least once in their careers; that number jumps to 45% in technical fields.
  • Less than a third of women — 32% — say that their workplace leadership quickly respond to disrespectful behavior toward women.
  • Well less than half of companies — 38% — have gender representation targets in place.

And we haven’t even gotten to the gender pay gap yet. 

Women see advantages in freelancing

When I read things like this, I am all the more convinced that being self-employed is an excellent choice for women. And going freelance is a low-barriers-to-entry method of starting out in self-employment and distancing yourself from the toxicity of office culture. 

More control

While women freelancers still interact with all sorts of workplaces as contractors, the experience of working remotely to produce deliverables is far different than being in an office every day. Also, we can choose which clients we want to work with, and we can fire a client easily if they turn out to treat us poorly. 

Since freelancers ideally get our income from several — or many — clients, losing the ones that we don’t like working with won’t sideline us. It’ll just open up room to find better — and better-paying — clients to fill the gap.

Massive flexibility

There’s also the obvious advantage of massive flexibility in freelancing that just doesn’t exist in the office world. We can easily and quickly ramp up and down how much work we’re doing for random, short, or extended periods of time.

We women typically value this freedom highly, since we often want to shift throughout our careers between focusing more on work life and focusing more on family life without being penalized in earnings or advancement for doing so.

Workplaces notoriously are resistant to giving employees, men or women, anything even remotely close to that type of flexibility. In fact, one of the reasons women are pushed out as the career ladder advances is the lack of reasonable options for balancing life and work. 

Women Are Saying “No thanks”

The truth is that many — maybe most — workplaces are simply not interested in ensuring that women are treated fairly and respectfully, and that they have a chance to succeed. Faced with such a raw deal, many of us — especially younger workers — are saying “no thanks.” 

Is it any wonder that we are increasingly turning to self-employment to design the kind of work life that actually works for us? 

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