Demanding bosses, sexism, health and child stress drive women out of the office. Kelly Dennett reports.
Priscilla Chand sees two groups of women sign up to sell their services through her freelance website HireHer.
“Millennials, super young, in their early 20s, define life according to their own ideas, work when they want to work, have travel, freedom,” she says. And the mothers: “Those who (work) with their families and want to pick up their children after school. They’ll just say, ‘Sorry I’m with my kids and I won’t work that much.’ It’s so cool. “
Chand, 32, had stayed at home for talent after a career in marketing for more than two years.
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Since it started in May, it has attracted 167 Australasian freelancer registrations, which Chand believes indicates a strong preference not to return to pre-Covid working life – the traditional 9 to 5 spent in an office, long or frustrating journeys with it brings, while struggling with juggling, other commitments or the things we love.
New figures show that more women are self-employed, becoming contractors, freelancers or sole proprietorships. In the year up to March 2021, 17,500 became self-employed without employees – an increase of 14 percent to 143,500. The survey of the household labor force showed that this was accompanied by a – statistically insignificant – decrease in the number of women in employment.
Most (22.8 percent) worked in the professional, scientific, technical, administrative and support service industries – the latter spanning jobs from architectural engineering to computer systems design to building cleaning. Others worked in the arts, leisure and other services (14.1 percent) as well as retail, accommodation and catering (11.9 percent).
Priscilla Chand, Founder of HireHer.
Statistics New Zealand reported that when asked about their attitudes towards their work, 91 percent of self-employed women said they prefer to continue working as they are. Chand says, “The corporations are trying to get back to the way things were – that’s not going to happen.”
Advisor and former director of the Department of Women, Jo Cribb, says working for yourself is a positive step for some.
“Because it offers them what a traditional role can’t: flexibility, choice in projects and who to work with, potentially more income (but with more risk), no more bad bosses or toxic work cultures. And managing school holidays and sick children – something many of us need now. “
But for others, “They may have lost their jobs during Covid and the options available are odd jobs or sub-contract roles with reduced income and ironically less flexibility (on demand, on-demand).”
Statistics on the underutilization of women after Covid make for a sober reading, she says. They showed that women still had a much higher underemployment rate than men. “These are women in jobs – but they don’t get the hours they want or need.”
“Not all self-employment is the same. For me, running a consulting firm with professional director posts, I have a number of sources of income so my income is reasonably secure … By running my own business, I have control over my work week, ability, home, fitness and building reconcile other interests as well as work.
“But some self-employment is precarious, casual, on-demand work that may offer few benefits, especially if you are looking for income security and advancement opportunities.”
The median weekly income for the self-employed fell $ 96, or 12.5 percent) to $ 671 in the June 2020 quarter. Self-employed people face up-front costs without a guaranteed paycheck.
Freelance photographer and content creator Ruby Hamilton lost her job during the lockdown but began freelancing and contracting instead.
In this position was Ruby Hamilton, 24, a freelance photographer who lost her “dream job” as a digital content producer for Fashion Quarterly during the lockdown. While she says she had the privilege of having a strong network of peers that got her back on her feet quickly, the initial prospect of doing it on her own was “terrifying”. “It was very spontaneous – to survive.”
Active with her work on social media, brands began reaching out to her to create something while she was in lockdown. “It was very experimental with the resources I had.” A year later, her week is a mix of freelance and contract work, and although she had to invest in equipment to get her up and running, she is doing fine financially. She has the support of her partner with whom she lives. In the meantime, working independently has taught her time management and after saying “yes to everything” at the beginning, which led to long weeks, she now enjoys the balance.
“For me, the ‘time choice’ is still a whole new thing,” she says. “I was definitely in the mindset, like a lot of young people, that I just wanted to work and work and work, but unraveling that feeling of always being busy and always active was an interesting learning – this idea of (if) busyness (Success) is. “
Lola & George founder Anna Stevens with her family. Partner Tim and the children Cooper, Ollie and Sophie.
Waikato mom Anna Stevens’ chronic health and her children meant she struggled with the traditional 9 to 5 days she had while working in real estate and then in an accounting firm. She was often in pain and did not want to leave her children in daycare for long periods of time.
“For almost a whole year I never worked more than three days a week,” she says. “I waited for a hysterectomy because I was always in such constant pain and sick when I found out I was pregnant … but the final straw was when (her son) ended up in the hospital with bronchiolitis just before Christmas and the Work told me that I had to go to work and find someone else to be in the hospital with him. My husband called her and gave notice on my behalf. ”
With his encouragement, Stevens focused on her design and printing business. After giving birth to their third child and undergoing a hysterectomy for endometriosis, doctors found benign tumors on her liver. “Going back to work seemed incredibly pointless,” says Stevens. “Between my health and the children, I would be viewed as very unreliable.”
After a few setbacks, Stevens now runs Lola & George, selling bespoke wall art. The brand has a strong following. Stevens works in the mornings before the kids wake up or sleep, and in the evenings she focuses on social media and administration.
“Once you have kids and other people who depend on you, it becomes incredibly difficult to focus on someone else’s work,” says Stevens. “Working from home means that I control my working hours myself. When children are sick they can be at home with me, when I have bad days or hospital appointments I can do my own thing. ”
Ben Henderson / Delivered
Leah Goffe Robertson started the Decent Coffee pop-up in Morningside after she returned to New Zealand from NYC.
While Stevens creates in the early morning, barista and retailer Leah Goffe Robertson opens the doors further north at Decent Coffee in Morningside, before moving to New York’s Pop-up, a bar by night (605 Morningside Drinkery) and Goffe Robertsons Cafe by day.
Despite having no children, Goffe Robertson agrees that traditional job failures are causing more women to break out on their own. In the US, sexism was rampant in the hospitality industry – Goffe Robertson couldn’t even make an old fashioned without scorn, she says.
“It’s hard to be a woman in any industry. Most are male dominated, but coffee and hospitality are (more). ” Add parenting and long hours and, “I’m not surprised women are fed up with it.”
Goffe Robertson’s background is in film and television, but she was working in the hospitality industry in New York when the pandemic broke out. She returned to New Zealand before the border was closed and, after she had already thought about it herself and came into possession of a coffee machine by chance, decided to open a pop-up as cheaply as possible. Goffe Robertson gave up a room she had to rent and furnish and instead turned to the 605 bar, which opened at 4:00 p.m., and asked if she could run a coffee room in the morning.
A month later, business is stable and Goffe Robertson is the only employee. She hopes to hire staff at some point but is waiting for finances to improve so she can pay more than the subsistence level. Since she lived on little more than the minimum wage in many jobs, she would like to see better pay in the industry.
Being the solution to a problem also motivated Priscilla Chand, who says that not only is work-life balance driving women out the door, but the gender pay gap and promotion issues as well. “I think there is a lot of power in us trying to solve (these problems) ourselves,” she says. “If you are a business woman and you can hire a freelancer, you are helping her to be successful, she is helping you to be successful, it’s a powerful exchange. That is literally (my) driving reason. “
Jo Cribb says women who choose to go it alone want to use the skills they have acquired in job hunting and interviews.
“Ask yourself the tough questions – what are you offering that someone would want to buy? Why would they want you? How do you market yourself then? Ask for help, get a support crew and do it. “
The Sunday Star-Times has three copies of Take Your Space: Successful Women Share Their Secrets by Jo Cribb and Rachel Petero giving away. To take part in the raffle, send an email to [email protected] with the subject: Book raffle. The closing date for entries is Tuesday, July 20, 9 a.m.
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