This article was written by CEO Emad Mousavi and orginally posted on his LinkedIn. For insights on the gig economy and QuiGig’s progress, click this link to visit his profile.
Workplace discrimination is, unfortunately, still a commonplace problem; no industry or specialty or geographic area is immune. Sometimes it’s based on gender or sexual preference. Sometimes it’s based on ethnicity or religious background. Sometimes it results in being paid less or passed over for promotion. Sometimes it means not even getting hired at all.
A couple stats that should be pretty sobering:
- Every year on April 10, Americans “celebrate” Equal Pay Day, which represents the additional four months a woman would have to work to earn the same pay a man would have received the year prior. The gender pay gap has been widely documented, and it gets even worse when you think about the fact that an African American woman would have to work until August 7, and Native American and Latina women until September 7.
- A study by Northwestern University, Harvard and the Institute for Social Research in Norway found that, on average, “white applicants receive 36 percent more callbacks than equally qualified African Americans” while “[w]hite applicants receive on average 24 percent more callbacks than Latinos.”
For freelancers, these situations can be even worse. When you’re a freelancer, you are less protected by law and corporate policies from discrimination of all kinds. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws and regulations typically only protect part- and full-time employees and provide them with recourse should they experience discrimination or harassment.
Freelancers are left in an unenviable position. They don’t have legal recourse, unless there has been an actual crime such as assault, but they also don’t have an HR department to go to with complaints. They also don’t have the assurance of income while such a complaint is investigated; you make a complaint directly to the employer and you’ll most likely just lose the work.
Last year I spoke to an African-American man who experienced racial discrimination on one of the major freelance marketplaces. He could not get his profile approved by the platform administrator with his real name and photo attached to it. So he decided to test a theory, and submitted the exact same profile but with a Caucasian-sounding name and a photo of a white man. The profile was immediately approved without issue.
Who was behind that decision? What can be done about it? And how often does something like this happen, leaving highly qualified applicants out in the cold?
Discrimination can be an insidious thing. Many will claim, “well not me, I’m not sexist, I love women!” or “I’m not racist, I don’t see color.” But the thing is, you don’t have to actually hate people of other races or genders to be discriminatory against them. It’s often a subconscious bias, based on years of the white male perspective being considered the default.
When you think of a doctor or a lawyer, who pops to mind? A white man most likely. When you think of a nurse or teacher, it’s more likely to be a woman. It’s not because you’re a bad person; it’s because you’ve seen those images reiterated in every medium from magazine ads to movies for decades. (Usually white) men are considered the ideal for powerful, high while women (and usually women of color) are relegated to the lower paying, “less important” jobs.
This is what we have to think about when we examine the causes and seek solutions for discrimination in hiring practices. We have to understand that while some employers are outright biased against some genders or ethnicities, and that’s absolutely wrong, many don’t even realize they’re letting those factors influence their decisions, and that can be harder to combat.
What we do at QuiGig to protect our freelancers is address this issue right up front. We have an anti-discrimination policy for the employers on our platform, but we also only display the profile information an employer needs to know to hire someone who can do the job. No pictures, no names, nothing that could cause an employer to feel any bias one way or the other, even subconsciously. We find that removing those distractions from the list of relevant freelancers helps avoid discrimination and actually results in happier employers because they hire based on ability and skill instead of letting any other information cloud the decision-making process and ending up with less capable workers.
As we’ve addressed, bias and discrimination is widespread and can be tricky to address at any level. The best thing freelancers can do is protect themselves by working with platforms and companies that take real action against discrimination before it even starts. There should already be policies and protections in place, and the way they structure their freelance agreements should also explicitly include protection clauses. If you feel your name, gender or any other aspect of you could be used to discriminate against you, scrub your profiles of those factors and lead with your skills and qualifications.
It has been estimated that over 57 million Americans earn at least part if not all of their income on a freelance basis, and that the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelance by the next decade. It’s time to change state and federal labor laws to include freelancers. Until then, both companies that rely on contractors and the marketplaces that facilitate freelance hiring should examine their own policies and put redress protocols in place, or lose out on quality hires.