Why many women like gig jobs? Avoiding the 'old boys network' at the office.

 Jean-Paul Sartre famously stated, "Hell is other people," a sentiment that resonates with many women in the workforce. A substantial number of women are turning to freelance, contract, or gig work, and shunning traditional office environments, with reasons extending beyond flexible hours. A survey by Jitjatjo revealed that 77% of women find gig work more appealing than returning to the office due to their reluctance to engage with co-workers. This preference for gig work, referring to temporary, freelance, or contract jobs, whether remote or in-person, is driven by various factors. The survey, conducted by Propeller Insights, outlined reasons for the popularity of gig work, with 60% of women citing flexibility, 58% mentioning the ability to set their own hours, and 46% expressing a desire to avoid time-consuming commutes.

Notably, only 23% of men considered avoiding co-workers as an appealing aspect of gig jobs, with 55% pointing to the elimination of commutes and 41% highlighting the flexibility to set their own hours. Tim Chatfield, CEO of Jitjatjo, suggested that some women may have had negative experiences with colleagues in past workplaces or simply prefer to work independently. Jasmine Tucker, Vice President of Research for the National Women's Law Center, emphasized systemic issues such as the "old boy network," which creates obstacles for women in terms of promotions and pay raises, especially in male-dominated settings.

Tucker explained that women often feel disempowered and uncomfortable in workplaces where male-centric cliques dominate, leading to a general feeling of uneasiness with colleagues. She also highlighted the impact on work-life balance, mentioning the discomfort women may face when seeking flexibility, such as leaving work to pick up a child from school. These insights shed light on the multifaceted reasons driving women away from traditional work environments and toward independent work arrangements.  
Female gig worker working on her laptop outside.  

Is gig work growing?

During the pandemic, both women and men enjoyed the freedom to work remotely and care for children who were distance learning. Now that many companies are requiring employees to return to the office, at least part-time, some women are choosing other career paths.

Thirty-eight percent of men and 17% of women describe themselves as flexible or gig workers, according to the Jitjatjo survey. About 14% of men and 17% of women said they were flexible workers in the past.

In 2022, 36% of U.S. workers, or 58 million Americans, identified as independent workers toiling as tutors, ride-sharing service drivers, food deliverers and substitute teachers, among other occupations, either as full-time jobs or side hustles, according to a McKinsey report. That was up from 27% in 2016.

Jitjatjo's Chatfield says the ranks of women shifting to gig work are growing much faster than men.

“What we see driving the gig workforce is a burning desire for work to flex around your lifestyle choice versus work dictating what lifestyle you choose,” Chatfield says.

Despite the growing popularity of gig jobs, many workers aren’t eager to talk about it.

Sixty percent of men and 44% of women said that, at some point in their lives, they chose not to tell friends or family about their participation in the gig economy.

Thirty-one percent of men and 44% of women said it was just a side hustle and they preferred that others didn’t know. Thirty-two percent of men and 27% of women said it was easier not to discuss because friends and family didn’t understand the gig economy.

And about 15% of all survey respondents said they kept their gig work to themselves because they felt like a failure.

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