Over the course of a 40-year career, women are expected to lose approximately $430,480 due to today’s maddening gender wage gap. Despite challenges from critics who claim that this wage gap doesn’t exist, it is well-documented that women earn, on average, 24 percent less than their male counterparts — and this number rises to nearly 30 percent in industries like finance and insurance. While a lot of research has been done on the gender wage gap in traditional industries, we actually don’t know very much about how women are faring in the creative economy where workers set their own prices and choose which projects to take on. Surely, self-employed women must suffer less from the gender wage gap, given that they can dictate their own fees… right?

A woman draws in a sketchbook

In an effort to help better understand the gender wage gap in the creative economy, a recent HoneyBook study analyzed 200,000 invoices and surveyed thousands of self-employed professionals. Unfortunately, what they found wasn’t exactly good news for freelancing women. In fact, it’s far worse than you might have thought.

Key Findings

While the national average gender wage gap hovers around 24 percent, HoneyBook found that women in the creative economy are making 32 percent less than their male counterparts for the exact same jobs. Breaking this down by annual income, the researchers found that women earn approximately $30,700, while men take in about $45,400.

(Image via HoneyBook)

Thinking that there could be a single outlier industry where an extreme gender wage gap was swaying the results, the researchers then broke down the statistics by profession. By far, female DJs and musicians fared worst, earning less than half of their male counterparts’ wages. Photographers earn 60 cents to every male dollar, event planners bring in about 75 percent of men’s income, and cinematographers fared the best, dropping the gap to 12 cents.

The researchers also discovered that there are far more freelance and self-employed women than men living below the poverty line. Over 37 percent of female creative entrepreneurs are making less than $9 per hour, compared to only 20 percent of male creatives — for nearly a quarter of the women studied, that number drops below $5, putting them well under the federal minimum wage. Similarly, only 25 percent of female creatives are earning over $25 per hour in revenue, compared to 45 percent of male creatives.

A woman works on a project

Recognizing the Issues

In order to get a better understanding of why the results were so shocking, the HoneyBook team surveyed over 3,000 creative entrepreneurs. Of these entrepreneurs, 63 percent believe men and women are paid equally in creative industries. Let that sink in — even though the gender wage gap is worse for creative entrepreneurs than traditional industries, nearly two-thirds believe that there isn’t a problem at all.

When asked which factors they think contributed the most to the glaring gap, 61 percent of entrepreneurs said that negotiating power was at fault, as women are less likely to negotiate higher costs and are treated differently during negotiations when they try. Wage secrecy was cited by about half, and two-fifths pointed to the “motherhood penalty” (opportunity costs due to time away from work and perceived lower commitment). Fewer than a quarter of creative entrepreneurs attributed the gender pay gap to either industry discrimination against women or underrepresentation as women.

A woman speaks to a colleague

How We Can Solve the Problem

As a new wave of feminists fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and many women in high-standing positions begin challenging their current earnings, we are so glad to see women letting their voices be heard on this crucial social justice issue. So what are some ways that we can actually help fix the problem as freelance creatives?

When asked how to fix the gender gap in the creative economy, respondents gave four main responses. First, respondents noted that women must learn to negotiate confidently. They must charge what their time is worth rather than what they can accept. Second, we must strive for price transparency by speaking more openly with one another regarding our fees and finances so we can better understand that the gender wage gap exists and where specifically to focus our efforts. Third, we must collaborate and stop the price race to the bottom. Instead of competing for who can offer the lowest prices to the consumer and drive the average cost down, we must raise the tide for all. Finally, we must value ourselves by committing to stop doing work for free and valuing the unique skills that we bring to the creative economy.

Tweet us your thoughts on the shocking gender wage gap in the creative economy by mentioning @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)