Making it as a freelancing woman in tech

Apr 15, 2021

Innovation is part of the very nature of tech, so it may surprise some to learn that IT is still a male-dominated industry.

There needs to be a concerted effort on the behalf of tech companies and educators to make room for other voices to be heard. However, this effort often falls on the shoulders of those who are facing the discrimination. Learning how to overcome gender bias is a key ingredient to success in IT freelancing as a woman.

As tech culture progresses, there are more opportunities for people to turn to freelance. There are a variety of benefits of this, but freelancing is riddled with regulation issues. Women are often the target of unhealthy power dynamics in the workplace, and this is no different in the world of online work. Freelancers are often left unprotected by business policies and ethics practices that a company may have in place, so condescending behavior and restriction often goes unnoticed.

Women in tech

Unfortunately, subconscious bias still exists even where progress is being made for gender equality. As humans, and particularly as forward-thinking creators in tech, we have the ability to overcome these ingrained biases when it comes to gender. With an understanding of these biases, solutions can begin to surface. It’s important that women in IT continue to take up space in the industry and let their presence be known so that the unique challenges they face can be recognized.

Although IT has been thriving throughout the pandemic, women have not. Women are traditionally the caregivers of their household, and during the last year, have been more likely to quit work, work less, or be willing to work for less so that they can take care of vulnerable populations that have been most affected by the disease.

According to Freshbooks’ Third Annual Women in the Independent Workforce report, 60% of self-employed women say it will take six months or more for their business to reach pre-COVID success. This same study indicated that less than half of self-employed men reported the same projections.

Another unique issue that freelancing women face is parenting. In general, the United States' parental leave is much shorter, comes with less provisions, and is only available to women. When it comes to taking parental leave as a freelancer, the options are limited and usually require losing income.

Strategies for overcoming gender bias

Gender bias is a phenomenon that has been widely studied and yet we still don’t completely understand it. Even people who don't believe they have bias can still be problematic if they do not consciously make an effort to overcome these ingrained belief systems.

Progress for women in tech is slow going, and even progressive policies fall short and leave women short changed and their work underappreciated. Until more tech companies make space for women to be part of the conversation, there are some things that women can do to put themselves at the top of the stack and start earning according to their skills and abilities.

1. Find a mentor

Finding a mentor in the field is the No. 1 way for women to learn how to make an impact in IT and boost their freelancing income. Top women in tech know the struggles first-hand and have had to create their own routes to success. A mentor can give tips on how to make work stand out, how to make more money as a freelancer, and where to find clients that are helping women move forward in IT.

2. Know your worth

Because of the wage gap that women face, they often settle on lower rates in order to land business.  Knowing how to negotiate your worth can help offset pay gaps experienced by women in tech. A good negotiator can sniff out someone who is willing to cave, and women are often seen as easy to persuade.

Although you may need the job, being willing to say no and walk away confidently if a deal isn’t good enough shows clients that your time is more valuable than others'. Freelancing relies heavily on price and service negotiations, so learning the art of negotiating is essential for women in particular.

3. Be tenacious

It is important that all freelancers market themselves and become leaders in their respective fields, but for women this may be an uphill battle. A recent European study focused on women in the fintech industry found that only 1 in 5 executives are women in one of the most progressive parts of the word. They have to work harder and know more than their male counterparts in order to secure gigs.

Additionally, there is less incentive for women in tech to continue working after becoming parents because research indicates that mothers with an advanced degree experience the same success as mothers with no degree at all. So in order to get ahead, women must be fearless and determined despite the barriers that stand in their way.

Conclusion

The bar is extremely high for female IT professionals. Freelancing can be especially difficult for women with families to get ahead and get their ideas noticed. Surviving in the IT industry as a woman can be daunting, and seeing success can seem impossible at times. Even though things are changing and more people are becoming conscious of gender biases that prevent women from reaching the top in tech, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she served as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization.