Gender Pay Disparities Persist Among Independent Contractors

Gender pay disparities persist among independent contractors

Interview with Pavel Shynkarenko, CEO and Co-Founder of Solar Staff 

Pavel Shynkarenko, CEO of Solar Staff, discusses the findings of a study on salary disparities between male and female contract employees in the EU. In this interview, he highlights surprising trends, the root causes of the pay gap, and potential strategies to promote gender equality in contract employment. 

Can you provide an overview of the methodology used in the study on salary disparity between male and female project workers in the EU? 

Solar Staff connects over 2,500 companies worldwide with independent contractors, giving us a wealth of data on contractors’ specialisations, earnings, and client profiles. Because of KYC checks, we also gain insights into contractors’ age and gender. In this study, we focused on how frequently EU-based companies engaged with female and male contractors and analysed their spending on these services over the last two years to uncover patterns in gender-based earnings differences. 

What were some of the key findings from the study that surprised you the most?  

I will highlight two things.

Despite the rising number of women among contractors, they still earn less than men while working with EU-based companies.

First, we noticed a 20 per cent surge in the number of contractors last year, with a noticeable rise in the proportion of female contractors. In 2023, the number of women contractors surpassed men by 11 per cent, representing a slight decrease of 2 per cent compared to the previous year. 

Second, despite the rising number of women among contractors, they still earn less than men while working with EU-based companies. The pay gap may reach 20 per cent in low-paying specialisations such as tutoring, but the difference is much more prominent in higher-paying positions. For example, male copywriters can earn 135 per cent more than their female counterparts.  

How do you explain the significant disparity in pay between male and female project workers, particularly the finding that it can reach up to 135 per cent? 

The significant pay gap primarily stems from the tendency to hire males for higher-level, better-paid tasks, while females often fill lower-tier, less lucrative positions. This recurring trend is evident across various high-skilled professions, where even with a balanced gender presence, senior roles are predominantly filled by men.  

Could you elaborate on how the pay gap varies across different specialisations within project-based employment and what factors contribute to these variations? 

I think that the essence of the pay gap lies not within specific job types but in the roles assigned within these fields. For instance, in 2023, women dominated lower-paid roles such as call centre work and tutoring, outnumbering men by 10-25 per cent. 

What implications does this study have for both employers and policymakers in terms of addressing gender pay inequality in project-based employment? 

We hope our study will show that the pay and representation gaps exist among non-employees, too. This does not mean that EU governments must strictly configure the number of women inside a company’s contractor team and their incomes, because it would destroy the principle of contract work. I think it’s a business job; companies should ask whether it is not the case that we pay contractors of a specific gender less without objective reasons. 

Did the study uncover any trends or patterns regarding the representation of women in specific industries or roles within project-based employment? 

Companies should ask whether it is not the case that we pay contractors of a specific gender less without objective reasons. 

There are still more women doing creative-related jobs such as graphic design or copywriting. For example, in 2021, 71 per cent more women were doing design jobs part-time for EU companies. I think that the pandemic played a huge role here because, during lockdowns, EdTech was flourishing, and many people took courses to try a new job either to make more money or find something more meaningful.

Also, I can’t say this is a brand-new fact, but it’s still worth noting that engineering is still a male-dominated specialisation. Unfortunately, in 2023, six times more men helped EU companies with IT tasks than women, and their monthly incomes were 78 per cent higher. 

How do you think the findings of this study compare to broader discussions and research on gender pay disparities in traditional full-time employment settings? 

It at least complements traditional employment studies, such as the European Commission study, which highlighted that women working as full-time employees earn 12.7 per cent less than men. 

There are many findings about gender pay disparities, but not so many of them cover non-traditional employment, which is the future of work. There are as many freelancers as ever; the gig economy is booming, and “side-hustling” is becoming a norm. So, it’s also essential to have a discourse about the representation and earnings of men and women in this space. Our research aims to raise awareness about this issue among the market and business community, catalysing efforts to address it. 

Based on the study’s findings, what strategies or initiatives do you believe are most effective in narrowing the pay gap and promoting gender equality in project-based employment within the EU?  

  1. Helping companies to fix the pay gap problem, not in the form of strict restrictions, but recommendations and instructions on how to straighten out the representation or cost of labour compensation
  2. Creating open statistics where professionals or companies can learn about the representativeness of women and men in specific roles in European companies. This provides a tool for change within companies

Executive Profile 

Pavel Shynkarenko

Pavel Shynkarenko, an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in HR, financial and legal technologies, business development and client-contractor relationship automation, founder and CEO of Solar Staff, an HR tech company for freelancers. Pavel enjoys art and photography, and his images are displayed in galleries in the US and Europe. 


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