March is Women’s History Month, and recognition marking International Women’s Day on the 8th usually highlights past achievements, like when suffragettes fought for the right to vote. Another holiday that falls on the 31st: Equal Pay Day.
The gender pay gap is alive and well in 2020. On average, American women earn just 81% of how much their male counterparts are paid. Iin the gig economy, the gap can be even bigger. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that male independent contractors make anywhere from 21% to 28% more than women.
That’s why it’s surprising that on Fiverr, the gig economy platform that allows workers to set a price and mass-market almost any freelance service, women earn more on average than men. According to new data the company released to Adweek, women are earning 19% more than men on the platform overall, and about 3% more on a per-project basis. The numbers are global, suggesting that women who compete directly with men on Fiverr are able to win in ways they might not normally be able to.
“We believe that on Fiverr, people are evaluated on the quality of their work rather than their gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion,” said Fiverr CMO Gali Arnon (At Fiverr, women make up 50% of the C-Suite).
“Businesses choose to work with them because of the credentials on their profile, a visible portfolio of work and reviews from past clients,” Arnon continued. “In this type of environment, everyone starts out equal and on the same ‘level,’ charging whatever they deem their experience and time to be worth. With no preliminary assumptions, prejudices, or limitations, women are able to flourish.”
Women aren’t just earning more money on Fiverr; the company says that women on its platform are also getting hired for gigs more often than men who offer the same services.
On Thursday, the company launches its first Women’s History Month campaign with an online storefront that highlights women freelancers. Fiverr’s campaign also includes promoting female talent through a podcast sponsorship (Wonder Media Network’s Encyclopedia Womanica) and a March 18th panel discussion with diversity and inclusion consultant Yai Vargas alongside women from Shutterstock, Etsy, Roofheads and of course, Fiverr.
The gig economy is not without its critics; working through platforms like Uber and Lyft, Taskrabbit, and Fiverr means working without knowing what your income is going to look like, living without benefits like healthcare and a 401k, and saving 30% of your income to pay income and self-employment taxes. And as a 2018 Atlantic article pointed out, the global reach of gig opportunities drives down rates for just about every service in a “race to the bottom” that forces U.S. workers to compete with their counterparts living in much cheaper economies.
Fiverr’s ad campaigns have been mocked for appearing to “celebrate(s) working yourself to death” and for ads that seem to show white men outsourcing work to underpaid, presumably uncredited women of color.
But there are obvious upsides to gig economy platforms, too. One of the tropes supporting the gender pay gap is the idea that women don’t negotiate or ask for enough money. Instead, these platforms that list the rates that men are charging for the same work offer transparency and pricing floors. They also take the glass ceiling out of the equation; women who don’t have bosses can’t be passed over for promotions, and are instead able to self-define their level of expertise.
“As an LGBTQ minority female with an MBA in Project Management, I was often overlooked for promotions and upper management roles and, at times, I felt the need to dumb myself down in order to be heard, ” said Jennifer Shealey, a social media marketing consultant on Fiverr. “[On Fiverr] none of my clients judge me for who I am as a person, they’re simply looking at the successful work that I’ve produced. I’m able to charge what I want for the completion of projects, work from wherever I want, and best of all, it has given me a sense of financial and emotional security that I’ve never felt before.”
Besides the wage-equalizing possibilities that gig platforms offer, freelancing can offer flexibility to women who need it most, like parents and disabled or chronically ill workers.
“I’ve spoken to women all over the world who’ve used the platform in so many different ways, some as a side hustle-turned full-time job to help save up for adoption, some to enable them to travel the world and some because they never felt they could reach their peak in the corporate world,” said Arnon. “I’m continually inspired by their creativity, their hard work and perseverance, and their passion for what they do.”