Empowering the Freelance Economy

81% of female freelancers treated “differently”

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A survey carried out among female freelancers by Xolo reveals that four out of five respondents feel that they have been treated differently in their careers due to their gender. Stories shared within the survey indicate that this is primarily related to unfavourable practices. 

The top three scenarios where respondents reported being treated differently included being made to feel less competent than male coworkers, being offered less money than males with similar backgrounds/expertise, and witnessing male colleagues being chosen for promotions more often than women. 


“Despite efforts to make tech and business more inclusive, the gender gap, and unequal treatment remain an issue in 2021,” said Elina Räsänen, CMO of Xolo.  

Top reasons why women feel they are worse off in their careers:

  • pay gap
  • fear of failure
  • perceived lack of entrepreneurial experience

As two of those aspects —fear and lack of experience — are self-imposed, it can be argued that women’s careers are held back by societal norms but also by the unfair standards that so many women hold themselves to.  

When it comes to by whom women have felt they have been treated differently, 64% indicate their direct supervisor and 49% their customers.

From a gender perspective, 52% of female freelancers have felt they have been treated differently by men but 48% claim that both men and women have played a role in unequal treatment. 

“This is an indication that we’re in this together, but not in the right way. It is evident that women have a harder time when it comes to starting and managing a business but it is discouraging to see that women often find it hard to support other businesswomen.”  

Elina Räsänen, CMO of Xolo

Spreading the word about unequal treatment also remains a stumbling block as almost half of women say they rarely or never speak up about it.

Unequal treatment still kept under the rug because:

  • thinking it won’t make a difference
  • the lack of a suitable forum
  • fear of losing the job or client as a repercussion 

However, when pinpointing who’s responsible for upholding equal treatment, more than half of the respondents said it should be handled by each business or person individually.

This highlights a discrepancy between not always speaking up about the problem while expecting that the case needs to be discussed in person for change to take place. 

Do you relate to the findings? Share your thoughts.

Related articles:

Gender pay gap: female freelancers paid less per day than males, says survey – Freelance Informer

How to negotiate higher rates and squash the gender pay gap – Freelance Informer

Contracting: it’s helping to eliminate ageism and the gender pay gap, says study – Freelance Informer

Compliance platform Xolo raises €3m to support post-pandemic solopreneur boom – Freelance Informer


1 Comment
  1. Lisa says

    Interesting article. I don’t agree with fear of failure and a lack of entreprenial experience being purely self imposed. For some women these are actual lived experiences backed up by a system that discriminates rather than a self limiting belief. And I’m not surprised that the report shows that unfair treatment is across both males and females – we all have unconscious bias driving our decisions. That’s why talking about it and using a process to help redefine the way we make decisions is important.

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