Women make up the majority of online freelancers, study says

In the past we’ve pondered whether the flexible, more location independent future of work is better suited on average to the talents and preferences of women. The answer to that question is speculation, but exactly how women are faring in the current market for flexible jobs online can be determined. So are they holding their own?

Consultancy Zinnov recently reviewed the entire online hiring market, looking in detail at 30 platforms like Elance and oDesk. They came to what may be a surprising conclusion for some – not only are women doing well with online work, they’re actually currently the majority of the online workforce. Of the approximately 4.5 – 5 million folks selling their services through these sites, 55 percent are currently women.

With women still carrying a larger share of childcare and household duties, this result makes intuitive sense in some ways. You’d expect those with greater time commitments outside work to be more keen on flexibility, and stay-at-home moms to be a significant portion of the online labor pool.  As VentureBeat reports,  “Zinnov said its study showed women more willing to work virtually to give themselves a better work/life balance.” The study further predicts that going forward women will make up an even larger segment of the online hiring pool.

While the idea that women might desire flexibility seems reasonable (despite studies showing men want work flexibility just as much, if not more than, women), the image of online hiring as largely focused on technical jobs may have suggested to some that women, who are still relatively rare in these type of gigs, would be under-represented. But Zinnov’s data don’t back that up, though they did find online hiring is most mature in the tech sector. They report, however, that skills such as multimedia, writing and editing are growing rapidly.

As is the sector as a whole. In the next three years, ten to fifteen percent of the total workforce will be hired from online talent marketplaces, according to the research, which also claims the total online hiring marketplace will climb towards $1 billion by the end of the year. Zinnov also confirmed that small businesses are leading the way for larger firms when it comes to the practice of hiring online. If you’re interested in further details, check out the presentation below.

Are you surprised by these findings?

Image courtesy of Flickr user CarbonNYC.