The growing world of contracting
The world of contracting received a significant boost to its population during the last recession when redundancies and job insecurity forced people to reconsider their careers. The idea of becoming their own boss gave people an element of control back over their career destiny and as an added bonus some control over their work/life balance.
Initially the growth in the popularity of contracting as a way to earn a living was predominantly driven by men jumping ship from permanent employment, but in 2013 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) highlighted that there had been a rapid increase in the number of female limited company contractors during the five years prior; the number of women who had chosen the contracting path had gone up by 21% since 2008.
The decision to become a contractor – Do women have the same drivers as men?
Redundancy, job insecurity, the ability to command higher rates of pay and the appeal of being their own boss are all cited as the reasons why men choose contracting over permanent employment. But what about women? Are their drivers the same or does contracting offer even more incentives to the career minded modern woman?
According to a recent survey carried out by PeoplePerHour, the rise in the number of female contractors has been partly attributed to the arrival of “Mumpreneurs”-the women who have found juggling the inflexible demands of employment with the needs of a young family. Contracting gives them the opportunity to continue with their careers whilst their children are young, work flexible hours to fit in with their children and potentially earn the same money as they would in permanent employment but working fewer hours or earn more money for the same hours.
Of course, the rising number of women in contracting cannot be solely attributed to women returning to the workplace after having children. A significant portion of the increase is made up of women who have struggled in permanent employment against their male counterparts both in terms of promotions and equal pay. The evidence suggests that contracting goes a long way to bridging the gender gap for pay and opportunity. In fact, the recent survey by PeoplePerHour has shown that women are winning more contracts than their male counterparts and enjoying a higher rate per hour!
What is giving women the edge?
- More empathetic – By nature women are empathetic, perhaps somewhat more so than men and potential clients appreciate this trait when it comes to discussing their needs.
- More creative – Women are also perceived to be more creative and therefore likely to think outside of the box and offer solutions in the face of challenges rather than trying to drive a square peg into a round hole (not technically but characteristically)
- More comfortable with the working from home lifestyle – Working from home has traditionally been more accepted for women than for men. This perception may act as a barrier for some men who may feel that working from home would remove an element of their perceived professionalism. Women are far less constrained by this perception.
Ladies, your industry employers need contractors like you AND THEY’RE WILLING TO PAY!
Despite the recent rise in the number of women joining the contracting world and the success of those who have done it, men still dominate it with a 60/40 gender split. However, this may well be set to change as large skill deficits in industries such as IT mean that women with sought after skills are being encouraged to look at the benefits of contracting both as a way of returning to the workforce with a young family or indeed as a career path from the outset.
At a glance –The Benefits of contracting for women
Greater flexibility in terms of hours worked and opportunity to work from home
Higher rates of pay – Rates per hour for contractors are often significantly higher than their permanent counterparts and therefore it is possible to work fewer hours for the same money or earn more money for doing the same job.
Equal opportunities – Contracting seems to have all but eradicated the gender gap that still exists amongst those that are permanently employed
Greater control of your work/life balance
Job security – Although traditionally the word “contractor” may not have gone hand in hand with job security, times have changed, and the reasons for that are twofold. Firstly, for many industries today, the demand for skills outstrips supply. As a result, companies are prepared to pay higher rates for good people but the skill shortage amongst the permanently employed forces employers to seek those skills from alternative sources. Secondly, in industries such as IT, today’s job market is brimming with opportunities that lend themselves better to fixed, short term contracts rather than permanent employment, making the outsourcing of these tasks to contractors the perfect solution for many employers.
Boosts self-confidence and independence
The perceived downsides to contracting as a female
- The lack of a “safety net” for maternity leave and other statutory benefits
- Guaranteed pay
The truth is, and all seasoned IT contractors will attest to this, that the pay as a contract, freelance or temporary consultant is significantly better than working as an employee. Thus making it very feasible to put money aside for periods of time when you may not be working as a result of the need for maternity or sick leave. Alternatively, the higher rates of pay could be used to fund an insurance policy to cover your income if you were to need long term sick pay.
If you are considering contracting as a career move and would like some help and advice, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 954 2101. We would be delighted to discuss your options with you.