For years, mothers have faced a tough choice: to work or not to work? However, this seemingly simple question fails to convey the sacrifices women are asked to make.
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Many working women have long yearned for a hybrid choice, some option that could exist if only the world of work were structured differently. With the rise of the gig economy, working women may have finally found that choice.
According to a 2016 study, the percent of women engaged in "alternative work arrangements," which includes gig economy jobs, has more than doubled since 2005 and now outpaces the percentage of men engaged in such work. Gig jobs present women with the opportunity to meld valuable careers and meaningful parenthood without compromising either.
The overwhelming popularity of gig work among women raises the question: What about the gig economy works for so many working mothers?
Here are a few possible answers:
1. You Can Set Your Own Hours
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An overwhelming 96 percent of female gig workers cite flexible hours as one of the top three benefits of working in the gig economy. Gig workers have the flexibility to work any number of hours they choose, usually at whatever time of day best suits their schedule.
This flexible scheduling doesn't have to mean earning less money. Many gig workers are able to put in full-time work, with 47 percent of them reporting they work more than 40 hours a week. For working mothers who want to pursue careers without sacrificing time with their children, the flexibility to work the hours they want to work makes gig work an ideal option.
2. You Can Work From Home
For some, motherhood means being on call at all times. In normal offices, where supervisors and coworkers note how often you're late and when you are away, working mothers are pressured to sacrifice either job security or availability to their children.
However, gig economy jobs in high demand like web development, software engineering, and graphic design can be performed from anywhere with an internet connection. They also pay generously, with median hourly wages running from $30 to almost $50 an hour.
3. You Can Build Job Experience
More than 70 percent of female gig workers are also the primary caregivers in their homes, proving that the gig economy provides women the flexibility they need to be attentive mothers and still gain valuable work experience. Rather than taking an extended hiatus or sacrificing time with their newborns, new mothers have the option of working as much as they want and when they want, making it easier to re-enter the traditional workforce if and when they choose.
4. You Can Close the Mother-Father Wage Gap
By some estimates, women won't have equal pay with men until 2152. Mothers are disproportionately affected by this gender wage gap, suffering a 3 percent "mommy penalty" on income compared to women without children. Working fathers, on the other hand, make 15 percent more than men without children. The gig economy is an opportunity for working women to set their own wages, bypass workplace biases, and avoid the mother-father pay gap.
5. You Can Craft Your Ideal Job
In the gig economy, the world is your oyster. A gig worker can craft their ideal position, choosing what they do, whom they work for, and the terms on which they work. In fact, 53 percent of people who are employed as gig workers chose it for the greater control it affords over their career development.
Having a child changes a woman's life, often in ways she never could have expected. With so much of motherhood outside of a woman's control, gig work provides a rare opportunity for mothers to exercise control in crafting the jobs they desire.
The gig economy presents an exciting opportunity for women to build lives that fully embrace both work and family without sacrificing either.
Rebecca Henderson is the CEO of Randstad Sourceright, one of the world's largest talent solution providers.