By Jonathan London on 26th November 2014

Is the gender pay gap within freelancing still a big issue?

When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, one issue that is still extremely pertinent and forever debated, even in today’s modern society, is the pay gap between men and women.

The government states that on average women earn 19.1 per cent less than men – a significant gap, and one that is surprising given the amount of barriers that are in place to ensure a more equal workplace.

While men and women are clearly by no means equal when it comes to salary, this statistic is actually the lowest it has been in history and the Office for National Statistics reports that the gap is narrowing.

However, this figure of 19.1 per cent is in reference to the workplace in which people are employed by a company. With this in mind, it is interesting to depart from ‘traditional’ modes of employment to see what the differences are when it comes to the self employed and freelancers, especially as the rate of self employment is currently at the highest it has been in the past 40 years.

This is particularly relevant given that the number of women who are turning their hand to freelancing is increasing at a much faster rate than men, although men continue to dominate the field.

Obviously there are a variety of pay differences between freelancers and employees to be taken into account, of which having the freedom to apply your own rate is the most prominent. At Boox, we undertook some research at the end of 2013 which proved rather interesting with regard to the gender pay gap.

A total of 1,011 contractors, freelancers and self employed individuals over 18-years-old who operated within the UK were interviewed via an online survey. Of this number, 474 were male and 537 female.

To begin with, it was very interesting to see where those interviewed were based, and there was clearly an overall majority in geographical terms between the two sexes as most lived in the South East, with 15 per cent of the male respondents being based there and 18 per cent of the females, respectively. This must be taken into account when looking at the actual pay gap as the geographical difference can often have an impact.

Something to bear in mind while considering the data is that there is a clear difference between the sexes when it comes to the sectors in which they work.

With news that IT contractors expect to see both work and pay opportunities increase over the next year, this sector is undoubtedly the most popular for men, with 16 per cent working in IT, compared to just six per cent of the women surveyed.

There was also a clear difference between those who worked in engineering, with nine per cent of men taking on such roles compared to only two per cent of women.

When it comes to retail, however, women lead the way at 14 per cent, with just ten per cent of men interviewed working in this sector. There were also slightly more women in PR, Design and Marketing at three per cent compared to two per cent of men.

A total of 53 per cent men and 62 per cent women work in ‘other’ occupations which have not been specified.

The specific sectors must be underlined when analysing this research as there are obviously pay rate differences between different roles, and with various sectors being predominantly male or female, this is likely to play a considerable role in gender pay gap.

Interestingly, looking at daily pay rates, there was a clear gap between men and women and the amount they charged for either their current or last role. While more women charged up to £150 at 32 per cent compared to 24 per cent of men, once the rate increased, the gap widened with men charging more.

A total of nine per cent of men charged from £151 – £200 compared to just six per cent of women and for £201 – £300, only four per cent of women charged this rate compared to nine per cent of men.

For those who charged a rate of £500 and over per day, again it was the male freelancers who took the reigns and, in fact, within the £701 – £800 bracket, no women at all charged this rate, while two per cent of the men did.

The difference in the average daily rates charged by men and women was surprising to see, with men charging a mean of £180 compared to £98 for women.

While there is a clear difference between gender pay within freelancing, with men charging more, it has to be remembered that there is a gap between the actual roles themselves and of course, there is the fact that freelancers can control the rates they charge. When asked if they had increased their rates, a total of 42 per cent of women said they had not compared to 36 per cent of men.

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Jonathan London Written by Jonathan London

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