On this International Women’s Day, I thought a good post would be to talk about women in the Gig Economy. In the recent McKinsey Global Institute Report, “Independent Work: Choice Necessity and the Gig Economy”, http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/independent-work-choice-necessity-and-the-gig-economy, they report that women comprise 51% of the alternative work force in the United States. In fact in the six developed economies profiled in the report, women were not the majority in only Germany and France, where they represented 48% and 45% respectively.
As someone who was in the gig economy before anyone ever called it that, it has always been clear that women were a major component of the alternative workforce. When I started M Squared Consulting in 1988 one of my prime observations were that credentialed women were leaving traditional corporate environments in droves. Whether it was the management consulting world where I was, advertising, consumer products or financial services, the need to balance competing demands in life trumped for many women the need to break the glass ceiling.
I am dating myself here, but before the advent of email and the internet, balancing family obligations was much harder. I remember several nights at Booz Allen where I would leave at 5:30 pm to the incredulity of my ( male) peers, head home to feed and bathe my newborn baby, put her to bed and then drive back to the office at 9 to work until midnight or 1 a.m., and roll into bed an hour later. I’d get up again at 6a.m. to feed the baby and spend some time with her before heading back to the office that morning. That grueling schedule was not sustainable and helped awaken my entrepreneurial streak to figure out a better way to work.
Over the years, I discovered that so many people, not just women wanted more control over time. Whether it was to write the great American novel, support an aging parent, or salsa dance competitively, consultants chose the independent path to make their entire life work, not just the career part. Don’t get me wrong, many also chose this path because they felt that could make more money on an independent basis and have greater intellectual challenges. But flexibility for many is a key factor.
MBO Partners has done a study on independent workers in America for the past six years and notes, as McKinsey did, the roughly equivalent level of male and female participation. In their most recent study, The State of Independence in America, https://www.mbopartners.com/state-of-independence, MBO Partners noted that men and women have different concerns and goals. For women, flexibility is more important than money. For men, control by virtue of being your own boss was more important.
But women are not just a part of the gig economy as workers, they are also part of the eco-system that supports the participants. From apps that provide effective time reporting, to platforms for liability insurance, entrepreneurs are seeing that this is a trend that is not going to sunset anytime soon. One part of the eco system is co-working space. WeWork, the giant in the segment is now the 4th largest real estate firm in the country. But in their shadow, some women in The Bay Area decided they wanted to figure out a new way to co-work. The Hivery, https://www.thehivery.com, a co-working space in Mill Valley, a suburb of San Francisco, is a specialized networking space just for women. They offer all sorts of events to members, like writer’s workshops, entrepreneur circles and meditation Mondays, all intended to build a sense of community, the kind of community designed for women.
So on this International Women’s Day, I salute all the independent women and entrepreneurs who have been able to design their work to support their life and their spirit rather than the other way around.