Self-Employed Men and Women Value Independence for Different Reasons

Self-Employed Men and Women Value Independence for Different Reasons

Martha White at NBC News passes along a new survey from MBO Partners, a business services company that helps independent contractors manage relationships with their clients, that looked into what motivates people who work for themselves and turned up some interesting gender dynamics:

MBO Partners asked independent workers whether or not they agreed with several statements about their motivations and priorities for working independently. While roughly 74 percent of women said flexibility is more important than making the most money, fewer than 60 percent of men agreed — and this gap has been widening. When MBO asked the question just two years earlier, 63 percent of men and 68 percent of women prioritized flexibility over money.

The survey also found that the number of women who said that controlling their own schedule was more important than making the most money was 11 percentage points higher than the number of men who said the same. … Although 57 percent of female respondents said they don’t like answering to a boss and nearly as many said they like being their own boss, 69 percent each of men said the same — another split that has widened in just two years.

Experts tell White that “outdated gender roles are to blame” for these differences, surmising that women value flexibility over pay to a large extent because women still bear most of the burden when it comes to caregiving and other responsibilities in the home—and the delicate act of balancing these responsibilities with work as a regular employee eventually becomes too difficult for many professional women:

Ursula Mead, founder and CEO of InHerSight, a jobs ratings site that focuses on women’s experience in the workplace, said many women reach a point in their careers and their lives when the demands of managing both can’t be squeezed into a traditional 9-to-5 office job, prompting many to depart.

“When we look at how women perceive workplace support, we see that it changes over time more significantly for the worst… especially around access to opportunities for management and growth,” she said.

This may be why rigid schedules that don’t allow for much flexibility are seen as a major driver of the gender pay gap, and why women often drop out of the workforce permanently or put their careers on hold for many years after having children: Their employers simply don’t support them as working parents by giving them the flexibility they need, while their male partners don’t take on enough housekeeping and childcare responsibilities to make the balancing act easier for women (and may also find themselves punished at work if they do).

We’ve also observed similar gender differences in our research at CEB (now Gartner) on the drivers of employee attraction. Women and men are mostly attracted to the same qualities in an employer (compensation, work-life balance, and stability), but differ in how much importance they assign to these drivers. For example, 47 percent of women say compensation is a main driver of attraction, while 43 percent say work-life balance is. By contrast, 49 percent of men say compensation is a key attractor, against only 37 percent who say the same of work-life balance. It’s not hard to see the connection between these differences and the roles and expectations women take on at home.

Our research shows that women consider a flexible time schedule the top tool that would help them progress in their careers. One way a company has used flexibility to boost women’s retention and representation in leadership is Telstra’s “All Roles Flex” approach. CEB Diversity and Inclusion leadership council members can watch our webinar with Telstra’s head of D&I, Troy Roderick, in which he explains how they increased women’s share of promotions and boosted female employees’ engagement scores by introducing flexibility throughout the organization.