Freelancers Face Dire Gender Pay Gaps

The gig economy is here to stay, which means more and more of us rely on freelance work to get by. While the hustle can be draining, for a lot of people, the freedom to set your own schedule and salary makes up for it. But if you thought that freelancing meant sidestepping the gender pay gap, one new survey has a staggering rebuttal.

Honeybook, a client management platform, looked into the differences in what men and women earn for the same work, such as event planning, graphic design, writing, and music. It analyzed 200,000 invoices from October 2016 to October 2017, and followed up with 3,100 participants. The biggest news: While two-thirds of respondents thought that men and women earned equal pay for equal services, women make 32 percent less than men overall.

It doesn't stop there. Three-quarters of creative entrepreneurs hold bachelor's degrees, but in 15 states, women are still making less than minimum wage, at nearly double the rate of men. Just 7 percent of women make more than $50 an hour, versus nearly 1 in 5 men. More than 40 percent of men make more than $50,000 per year, compared to 20 percent of women. And while 8 percent of female creatives pull in more than $80,000 a year for their work, they're still lagging behind men, 20 percent of whom can swing those kinds of numbers.

Survey respondents had different ideas for what accounts for the gap. Six in 10 thought it had to do with negotiations, given that women either ask for less, accept less, or face retaliation for negotiating fairly. Almost half pointed to wage secrecy, women simply not knowing they're underpaid. Forty percent saw the so-called "motherhood penalty," in which clients assumed a woman's children would limit her commitment to the work.

Women make up nearly 90 percent of Honeybook's client base, but fewer than 23 percent of the whole believe women face systemic discrimination. The costs are very real, to female creative freelancers and to the economy as a whole. Honeybook offers some solid advice for correcting the gap on an individual level, but if you're in a position to manage freelancer payments, look into how your institution can ensure fair pay for all your contracts.