How to Handle Gender Discrimination As A Freelancer

gender discrimination as a freelancer

Gender Discrimination Is Everywhere!

Lately I’ve been coming across more and more cases of gender discrimination among freelancers and solopreneurs. In the back of my mind, I am very much aware that I too face gender discrimination as a freelancer. Gender discrimination is as pervasive in the freelancing environment as it is in the traditional workplace setting. Funny how I assumed that exiting the workplace would have meant an end to gender discrimination. But boy, was I wrong.

Tanya Stephens - Reggae Artiste
Tanya Stephens – Reggae Artiste

The thing that really gets to me is how prevalent gender discrimination is in our societies. Here we are in the 21st century and still facing issues such as gender discrimination. Just yesterday as I read the Sunday Gleaner newspaper, I learned that renown reggae artiste, Tanya Stephens has recently cried out against gender specification and gender bias in the field of music.

In the article, Stephens expressed the view that she felt that it was an insult to be referred to as a “female artiste”. She would rather not have her role qualified and would prefer to simply be referred to as an artiste, just like her male counterparts are.  For her, the implication of being called a “female artiste” is that a lower standard is being applied, which angers her. Stephens was quoted as saying

The average male artiste enters the industry with a sense of entitlement, simply by having a penis. However, a woman who achieves will get a half-ass compliment like “Trust me, my girl, you wicked for a female artiste”.

In Jamaican parlance, in this context, the word “wicked” means something good. In this case it means talented and gifted. I must say that Stephens makes a strong point. Artistes who happen to be female have to work that much harder to receive the same level of recognition and the same level of compensation that their male counterparts receive.

gender discrimination
Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic in more peaceful times

This issue of gender discrimination was also raised by tennis superstar, Serena Williams recently. Apparently, male tennis player, Novak Djokovic, has expressed the view that he believes that male tennis players deserve to be paid more than their female counterparts. His argument is that male tennis players should receive more pay than female players because they attract more ticket sales due to larger turnouts at tournaments in which male players are featured. Williams rubbished his argument and counter-argued that

If I have a daughter who plays tennis and also have a son that plays tennis, I wouldn’t say that my son deserves more because he is a man. If they both started at 3 years old, I would say they both deserve the same amount of money.

At every level in the society, we seem to face an issue of gender discrimination against females. This issue has stealthily crept into the freelancing arena and now female freelancers also face the challenge of trying to get equal compensation for their efforts as male freelancers.

How Gender Discrimination Affects Freelancers

In a recent article about 12 Freelance Writing myths to dispel, Italian freelance writer, Luana Spinetti, points out that it is largely a myth that female freelancers earn less than their male counterparts. However, she quickly points out that this is not always a myth. In many cases, female freelancers do actually earn less than male freelancers.

Spinetti argues that women receive less pay in freelancing than men, not because of gender discrimination, but because of cases of low self-worth among female freelancers. She points out that experience, competence and background also play a role in how freelancers are compensated for their efforts.

In some respects, I agree with Spinetti’s view. In fact, her argument is similar in many respects to the views that I expressed in a 2014 article entitled “4 Reasons Why Males Earn Greater Incomes Than Females.” I pointed out that generally speaking, males tend to negotiate for higher compensation that their female counterparts and this is why, in several instances, males will take home more pay than females.

Which again brings up the issue of entitlement as alluded to by Tanya Stephens. Males believe that they are entitled to more, so they demand more. My conclusion to that article was that it really is a matter of self-discrimination based on how males and females view themselves, rather than a case of gender discrimination.

What to Do About Gender Discrimination as a Freelancer

But does that argument hold true today? Do female freelancers earn less then their males counterparts because they tend to value their own services less than males do? I think that is a big part of it. On the other hand, clients sometimes do express gender biases and will tend to offer greater compensation to males than to female freelancers.

So how do you actually get around gender discrimination as a freelancer? There are quite a few ways that we can attempt to address the issue but it really boils down to individual circumstances. Here are some suggestions that I have based on my experiences as a female freelance writer.

  • Don’t Reveal Your Gender – I try to avoid revealing my gender when I create my profile on certain online marketplaces. So this means that my profile pic is not necessarily a head shot but rather some other representative icon that is gender neutral. Also, I don’t use my actual name as my username. Again, I choose something that is gender neutral. Finally, in my description, I keep it neutral and avoid making statements that would give away my gender. This has worked for me in many instances, especially in cases where the service that I offer is the writing of financial articles. Many clients tend to take the view that females don’t know that much about finances and are biased towards choosing male freelance writers for financial articles. In order to overcome that hurdle, I just remove gender from the equation altogether. This is something you may also consider trying. However, some online marketplaces insist that you upload a headshot for your profile pic and that you use your actual name.
  • Charge the Same Rates As Male Freelancers – As with any other type of job search, as a freelancer you should conduct research to find out what others are charging for the same services that you offer. When conducting salary searches, it may be a good idea to search specifically for what male freelancers are charging if you are a female, and match their rates. However, remember that experience and training usually affect the rate that certain freelancers will charge so bear this in mind when doing your comparisons. It is not greedy or unladylike to demand equal pay. Demand what your services are worth; not what you think you can get because you may happen to be a female freelancer.
  • Do a Superior Job of Self-Promotion – At the end of the day, how you promote yourself and your services will help to address the issue of gender discrimination as a freelancer. The better you are at self-promotion, whether male or female, the greater your chances of being better compensated for your efforts. Many freelancers earn much less than they could because they don’t know how to promote themselves and their services properly. Marketing and self-promotion are part and parcel of freelancing and those who earn more are the ones who do a better job at marketing. It is therefore in your best interest to invest in learning how to better market your freelancing services.
  • Do Your Part to Kill Stereotypes – Stereotypes are hard to get rid of. However, if you do your part as a freelancer in avoiding stereotypical behavior, you would be doing a great service to yourself and to other freelancers all across the globe. No, female freelancers do not earn less than their males counterparts because they deserve less. They earn less because they demand less, self-promote less efficiently (in some cases) and set themselves up for earning less by making their gender an issue when it doesn’t have to be. That can change. It starts in the mind. Change your mind, change your pay. It all begins in the mind.


Gender discrimination continues to be a very pervasive issue that rears its ugly head in all sectors of our society. Sadly, gender discrimination is very present in the freelancing world as well. How can you handle gender discrimination as a freelancer? You can demand what you’re worth, not based on your gender but based on what you bring to the table. You can refuse to even bring gender into question by choosing not to reveal your gender where possible. You can also choose to kill gender stereotypes and to play your part in getting rid of gender discrimination.

Have you faced gender discrimination as a freelancer? Please share your stories here.

8 thoughts on “How to Handle Gender Discrimination As A Freelancer

  1. I’ve personally never experienced it as a problem and am proud that I am a senior woman who has accomplished so much. As a young woman in the corporate world I demanded to be paid as well as a man and in fact, was paid more. But, I can see how it can be a huge problem for a lot of people
    Carol Graham recently posted…Does This Make Sense To You?My Profile

    • You are one of the fortunate ones Carol. I never knew how pervasive this issue was until quite recently. Hopefully by talking about it openly we can get closer to a lasting solution. Thanks for adding value to the conversation.

  2. I don’t know if I’ve experienced gender discrimination as a freelance journalist. The publication that I write for is just in general cheap. The pay rates are super low and, now, they’ve cut their freelance budget to next to nothing and… arrgghh!
    At this point, I am unable to make a living as a freelancer.
    I do have my gardening business.
    I think that men are paid better for outdoor work.

    • Alice you crack me up….lol! Yes, I do believe that men are better paid for outdoor work. Regarding your freelance journalism perhaps you may be better off working with different clients who are prepared to pay you what you’re worth. All the best with all your endeavors.

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