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Summary:

Recent research showed that the majority of online freelancers are women. Now, new numbers from MBO Partners reveal women aren’t just dominating independent work online, but actually make up more than half of all independent pros, and they’re highly satisfied with this way of working.

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Women make up the majority of online freelancers, consultancy Zinnov recently revealed when it surveyed 30 of the top online hiring platforms. But how about the world of offline independent work –do women dominate there as well? Independent work consultancy MBO Partners released its own findings today (complete with the requisite infographic) indicating they do.

Zinnov reported that 55 percent of online freelancers are women. MBO Partners says a similar percentage (53 percent) of all American independent workers are also women, which amounts to 8.5 million women across the country working on their own. Compare that to women’s 47.6 percent participation rate in the traditional workforce and you may start to wonder if the gig-focused future of work isn’t a better match for the needs of women.

Several experts and female independent work veterans have speculated that the greater flexibility of independent work might be more suited to the desires of women and take advantage of their ability to weave together communities of collaborators and their generally lower attraction to high-status, long-hours,  battle-up-the-ladder-type career paths.

Drawing on their Independence Workforce Index, MBO Partners’ numbers supports this idea that independent work tends to suit women and that flexibility plays a central role in this. 77 percent of women independents are satisfied or highly satisfied with their mode of working, according to the consultancy, and 74 percent plan to remain independent. When asked why they plan to remain independent, 65 percent cited flexibility, 64 percent said control over their own schedule and 59 percent noted the enjoyment they get from being their own boss.

Not every woman is independent by choice, however. And MBO admits that the recent recession and spotty recovery are forcing some women to get creative about their career trajectories. “As the country continues to struggle with economic recovery, women have forged a viable third path that empowers them with even greater control and freedom over their lives and careers. It also gives them a new definition of work-life success,” Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners, said, putting a positive spin on the less happy face of women forced into independent work for a statement accompanying the data.

The relative gains of women over men in the workplace have been much discussed in the last few years (exhibit A: the term “mancession”) – is the rise of independent work one more factor making work more female friendly?

Image courtesy of Flickr user tibchris.

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  1. Jessica-Thanks for the interesting feature and mention of the new MBO data. I wanted to point out something that I personally found interesting. Whether or not independent workers (including independent women workers) chose independence or “fell into it” – only 1 in 5 ever want to return to traditional work. Despite the fact that income and security can be a challenge to contend with, we found it interesting that the data showed a strong commitment to this new work style. I personally don’t think it’s about ‘men vs. women’ – the data shows a surprising equality in work choices and an equality in both the perception of challenges and the benefits. That’s a world of work I can buy in to. (As the CMO for MBO Partners, I’ve been a proponent of speaking to women professionals considering this path and sharing the honest story.. good, bad .. Independent work is not a black and white decision. It’s shades of grey.) But it’s clearly now a career choice that’s here to stay. Today, 8.5 million-tomorrow-a career majority?

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