Women are increasingly working for themselves – but is it because they want to or have to?



Demanding bosses, sexism, and health and child stressors are driving women out of the office. Kelly Dennett reports.

Priscilla Chand sees two groups of women sign up to sell their services through her independent website, HireHer.

“Millennials, super young, in their early twenties define life on their own terms, work when they want to work, travel, are free,” she says. And mothers: “Those who (work) around their family and want to pick up their children after school. They will just say “sorry, I am with my children and I will not work as much”. This is so cool .”

Chand, 32, had been a stay-at-home mom for more than two years after a career in marketing, when she started working for herself helping others work for themselves – starting HireHer, a platform -form where freelancers list their services and employers. look for talent.

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Since its debut in May, it has attracted 167 registrations from Australasian freelancers, which Chand says indicates a strong preference not to return to pre-Covid working life – the traditional 9s to 5s spent in an office, involving long or frustrating trips, while struggling to juggle. other commitments, or the things we love.

New figures show more women are working for themselves, becoming entrepreneurs, freelancers or independent traders. In the year to March 2021, 17,500 became self-employed without employees, an increase of 14%, to 143,500. The Household Labor Force Survey showed that this coincided with a decline in the number of women in paid employment – but statistically not significant.

Most (22.8 percent) worked in the professional, scientific, technical, administrative and support services industry, the latter including jobs such as architectural engineering, computer systems design and building cleaning. Others worked in the arts, recreation and other services (14.1%), as well as in retail trade, accommodation and food services (11.9%).

Priscilla Chand, founder of HireHer.


Priscilla Chand, founder of HireHer.

Statistics New Zealand reported that when asked how they felt about their work, 91 percent of all self-employed women said they preferred to continue working as they were. Chand said, “Businesses trying to get back to what they were – that’s not going to happen. “

Consultant and former director general of the Women’s Ministry, Jo Cribb, says that for some, working for themselves will be a positive step they have chosen.

“Because it offers them what a traditional role cannot offer: flexibility, choice on projects and with whom you work, potentially more income (but with more risk), more bad bosses or cultures of toxic work. And dealing with school vacations and sick children, which many of us need now.

But for others: “They may have lost their jobs during Covid and the options available are insecure or outsourcing roles, with reduced incomes and ironically less flexibility (on-demand, on-call).”

Post-Covid women’s underutilization statistics allow for sober reading, she says. They showed that women continued to represent a much higher rate of underemployment than men. “These are women with jobs – but not getting the hours they want or need.”

“Not all self-employed are the same. For me, running a consulting business with professional directors, I have a range of sources of income, so my income is somewhat secure … Running my own business has given me control over my work week, the ability to balance home, fitness and building other interests as well as work.

“But some freelancers are precarious, on-call, casual jobs that may have little benefit, especially if you are looking for income security and advancement opportunities.”

The median weekly income of the self-employed fell from $ 96 (12.5%) to $ 671 in the June 2020 quarter. Those who are self-employed face initial costs without a guaranteed paycheck.

Freelance photographer and content creator Ruby Hamilton lost her job during the lockdown, but began freelance and outsourcing instead.


Freelance photographer and content creator Ruby Hamilton lost her job during the lockdown, but began freelance and outsourcing instead.

This is the position freelance photographer Ruby Hamilton, 24, found herself in after losing her “dream job” as a digital content producer for Fashion Quarterly during containment. While she says she was privileged to have a strong network of peers who saw her quickly get back on her feet, the initial prospect of going it alone was “terrifying.” “It was a spur of the moment – to survive.”

Active with her work on social media, brands began approaching her to create while she was locked out. “It was very experimental, using 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 up and running, she is doing well financially. She has the support of her partner, with whom she lives. Meanwhile, working for herself has taught her about time management and after saying “yes to everything” at the beginning which resulted in long weeks, she is now enjoying a balance.

“Choosing your time” is still a fairly new thing to me, “she says. “I was definitely in the mindset, like a lot of young people, of, I just wanted to work and work and work, but disentangling that feeling of always being busy and always active, was an interesting learning – that notion. of (if) the activity is (success).

Lola & George founder Anna Stevens with her family.  Partner Tim and children Cooper, Ollie and Sophie.


Lola & George founder Anna Stevens with her family. Partner Tim and children Cooper, Ollie and Sophie.

Waikato’s mother Anna Stevens’ chronic health issues and having children forced her to grapple with the traditional 9-5 days she had working in real estate and then in a accounting firm. She was in pain often and did not want to leave her children in daycare for long hours.

“I never worked more than three days a week for almost (one) whole year,” she says. “I was waiting for a hysterectomy because of the constant pain and illness when I found out I was pregnant… but the last blow was when (her son) ended up in the hospital with just bronchiolitis. before Christmas and that work told me I had to go to work and find someone else to be in the hospital with him. My husband called them and resigned in my stead.

With his encouragement, Stevens focused on his design and printing business. After giving birth to her third child and then having a hysterectomy for endometriosis, doctors found benign tumors on her liver. “The return to work seemed incredibly unnecessary,” says Stevens. “Between my health and the children, I would be considered very unreliable.”

After a few setbacks, Stevens now runs Lola & George, selling custom wall art. The brand has a strong audience. Stevens works in the morning before the kids wake up or when they are asleep, and in the evenings, she focuses on social media and administration.

“Once you have kids and other people who are relying on you, it becomes incredibly difficult to focus on working for someone else,” Stevens says. “Working from home means I control my own hours, when the kids are sick they can be home with me, when I have bad days or hospital appointments I can do my own thing. . ”

Leah Goffe Robertson launched the Decent Coffee pop-up in Morningside after returning to New Zealand from New York.

Ben Henderson / Supplied

Leah Goffe Robertson launched the Decent Coffee pop-up in Morningside after returning to New Zealand from New York.

As Stevens creates in the early hours, further north, individual barista and shopkeeper Leah Goffe Robertson opens the doors to Decent Coffee in Morningside, before juggling brewing coffee and toast in the New York pop-up that’s a night bar (605 Morningside Drinkery) and Goffe Robertson’s cafe by day.

Although she has no children, Goffe Robertson agrees that the failure of traditional workplaces is leading more and more women to fend for themselves. In the United States, sexism was rife in the hospitality industry – Goffe Robertson couldn’t even do an Old Fashioned without contempt, she says.

“It’s hard to be a woman in any industry. Most are male dominated, but coffee and hospitality are (more). Add in the parenting and the long hours and “I’m not surprised women are fed up. “

Goffe Robertson’s background is in film and television, but she was working in the hospitality industry in New York City when the pandemic hit. She returned to New Zealand before the borders closed and, having already thought about doing something on her own, and coincidentally coming into possession of a coffee machine, she chose to open a pop-up on cheaper possible. Giving up a space she would have to rent and arrange, Goffe Robertson instead approached bar 605, which opened at 4 p.m., and asked if she could manage a coffee space in the morning.

A month later, business is stable and Goffe Robertson is the only employee. She hopes to eventually hire staff, but waits for finances to improve so that she can pay more than a living wage. Having survived in many jobs with little more than minimum wage, she would rather be paid in the industry.

Becoming the solution to a problem is also what motivated Priscilla Chand, who says it’s not just work-life balance that drives women out – it’s the gender pay gap and promotion issues. “I think we have a lot of power in trying to solve (these problems) on our own,” she says. “If you’re a businesswoman and you can hire a freelance writer, you help her be successful, she helps you be successful, that’s a powerful exchange. It is literally (my) driving force.

Jo Cribb says women who choose to go it alone will want to use the job search and interview skills they’ve cultivated.

“Ask yourself the tough questions: What do you offer that someone wants to buy? Why would they want you? So how are you going to market yourself? Ask for help, form a support team around you and go for it.

The Sunday Star-Times has three copies of Take Your Space: Successful Women Share Their Secrets, by Jo Cribb and Rachel Petero, to give away. To participate in the raffle, send an email to [email protected] with the subject line: Gift book. Registration closes on Tuesday July 20 at 9 a.m.


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