Just for men: Is the gig economy sexist (and dangerous)?

Written by the Editorial Team

The rise of the gig economy has been one of the most talked about stories in the media over the last 12 months. But recently published figures suggest that there is a gender imbalance within the gig workforce.

Research conducted by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce has found that less than 1 in 3 (31%) of all workers across the gig economy are women.

95% of Uber drivers, for instance, are men, while just 6% of Deliveroo couriers are women – figures that prompt the question, Why is there such a concerted push to promote gig working when the premise is so fundamentally flawed?

The whole idea of the so-called gig economy is that it will support women and those with childcare and other commitments to return or retain a foot in the jobs market.

Indeed, the momentum for gig working is such that last year PwC published a report predicting that 1 in 5 people in the UK will be ‘gig workers’ (freelancers to you and me) by 2020.

The leading membership body for the staffing industry, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), went a step further to suggest that this figure will probably be closer to 1 in 4.

At a time when the gender agenda is at the very top of the organisational agenda, the figures from the Royal Society highlight the fact that fewer women than men are seduced by the prospect of working on an individual contractor basis.

This is hardly surprise, particularly if we begin to see adverts such as this hitting the UK.


Fiverr, an online freelance marketplace that promotes itself as being for “the lean entrepreneur”, recently came under fire in the US over the advertising campaign show here on the left.

The advert was plastered all over New York’s subway system and sparked a backlash over concerns that it promoted what the New Yorker described as the “cannibalistic nature of the gig economy dressed up as an aesthetic.”

The company also produced a video, with the main message being “to always be available”…even when you’re having sex.

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Click image to open video

It’s a poor message to promote and at first viewing, we genuinely thought this was a spoof.

However, it isn’t and should Fiverr attempt to replicate the video for UK audiences it will invariably come under scrutiny from the unions and the government themselves.

Fiverr responded by issuing a press release that said, “The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less.

“It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” Mmmm.


If this is the future of the gig economy, we shouldn’t want any part of it.

The UK has one of the longest working hours’ cultures in Europe and while the rhetoric used by Uber, Deliveroo and Fiverr et al is trying to promote the idea of flexible working as being fun, in control and ‘killing it’, they are doing so in a way that say these things can be achieved providing you embrace the ‘zeitgeist’ and work yourself into an early grave.