International Women’s Day (IWD) represents an opportunity to celebrate economic, political, social and cultural achievements of women worldwide. The theme this year is all about gender parity, whether in regards to women’s education and career ambitions, the demand for more gender-balanced leadership roles, or more inclusive and flexible cultures rooting out the workplace bias. Despite perceptions of progress, the widening gender pay gap is still persistent and detrimental to the economy as a whole. It is no surprise that more and more women are now seeking for alternative ways of employment, with the number of people working from home particularly on the rise.
With the support of Freelancer.com, starting a business or working online has never been easier. In fact, last year’s women’s first-time-user registration on the platform increased by 47% in comparison to just the year before. The advantages of working online are numerous: you are your own boss, you can choose what you do, where and how you work. It becomes more convenient to overcome the limitations of time and space, making it easier for you to maintain a good work-life balance. You can work from a local café or the comfort of your own home; all you need is an Internet connection and you are in touch with the rest of the world. There is no particular routine to follow, nor obligations to stick to a fixed schedule; you manage your time yourself.
Heather Metcalfe, a 22-year old website designer and a Preferred Freelancer from Lancashire, UK believes: "Freelancing has given me a lot more freedom with my career and also allowed me to start up my own business with a partner. The flexibility is great, and I think that freelancing online has definitely helped me as clients choose me because of my portfolio and reviews. Starting out as a designer is tough, but freelancing really gives you unlimited options."
Stacey Jay Kelly, digital artist from Manchester, UK who used to work for the likes of Sony and BBC agrees: “I am really satisfied with my career and working online has been a huge part of that. Self-employment would have been a much larger risk if I did not have Freelancer to help me map my progress and serve as a reference point for others.”
On another side of the globe, architect Anna Lee Salas, who once worked for a large mall chain in the Philippines, now earns 60% of her total income from working online on Freelancer.com. She acknowledges the difficulty for women architects like her in the male-dominated field but explains, “There are no challenges for women architects online. I think the clients tend to like females better because they have sharper eyes and are more creative than men.”
While such flexibility is important, income may just be one of the main priorities women are concerned about when it comes to their careers.
Based on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek 2014 report, female workers in the US tend to be paid only about 77¢ for every dollar their male colleagues make, and a mere 4.2 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. But we don’t need to go far away from home to see this happening. The World Economic Forum’s The Global Gender Gap Index 2015, addressing relative gaps between women and men in the areas of health, education, economic participation and political empowerment, ranked the United Kingdom only in the 18th place, US 28th, India 108th, with Iceland, Norway and Finland leading the way at the top of all 145 countries included. In fact, it is believed that the world may not be on track to close the workplace gender gap until 2133. Appropriate action plans need to be put in place to pick up the pace.
And while the difference between men and women’s pay remains a big concern in the ‘offline’ world, female freelancers working online are generally flexible in setting their own budget requirements and pay rates accordingly. All that matters is the consistency and quality of their work. Or, as Stacey Kelly states: “Freelancer clearly provides a platform for people from all walks of life, and I am able to work freely without my gender being referenced at all. The freedom Freelancer offers has transformed my entire life, allowing me to focus on my personal goals and also strengthen my knowledge of global currencies.“ This should give women the power to potentially earn even more money, and the money they get can be directly proportional to the time they spend doing the actual work.
Anyone with skills such as development, writing, marketing, translations, design, engineering, architecture, proofreading, or data entry, can look for an opportunity to find a job, or hire someone to work with online. It is also a great way to build up experience. Exposure to a wide variety of projects and working environments accelerates the development of skills, while meeting a lot of new people also helps to increase one's professional network and contacts.
For some women, working online may only be one step in their career direction; for others, it can be a whole new lifetime of career opportunities. It can work for students just starting their first job, or mothers wanting to return to work after their children start school -- the support found online can help them get (back) on the career ladder.
Given the complexity of women’s daily tasks in life, which may require them to be a professional, a mother, wife, friend, sister and a daughter at the same time, they can now manage their own priorities and have the ability to not only enjoy more personal time with their family and friends, but to also engage in several different professional activities at the same time. The Internet services marketplace field is full of potential, and Freelancer.com wants to raise these current numbers even further. We know how crucial work opportunities are in empowering women anywhere around the world — our goal is to assist them in advancing themselves professionally.