International Women’s Day 2022: The future of work is made for women

For International Women's Day, IPSE is shining a light on women in the self-employment sector. Today, we have a blog from Claire Hutchings, New to Freelancing IPSE 2021 winner and Freelance Marketing Consultant. 

Claire Hutchings

Getting made redundant, while on maternity leave in the middle of a global pandemic wasn’t exactly part of my career plan. An already turbulent time as a new mother in lockdown was exasperated with further uncertainty.

But according to research by Pregnant Then Screwed, I wasn’t alone. 15 per cent of mothers and expectant women in their 20k-strong pandemic survey were made redundant. And a huge 46 per cent of those said a lack of childcare provision played a role in their redundancy.

Similarly, IPSE’s research revealed that although the number of self-employed mothers has decreased by nine per cent since 2020, the number of self-employed mothers has still increased by 40 per cent since 2008.

And the research also found that since the onset of the pandemic, over half (52%) of self-employed mothers are now working in the top three highest skilled occupational categories whilst the number of self-employed mothers working in skilled trades occupations has increased by 70 per cent.

Uninspired by permanent roles and going back to the daily sprint to and from London around childcare, I added to the statistics leaving the employed workforce to become a freelance marketing consultant. The world had changed and so had I, but it seemed that back in Autumn 2020, employers had not. 

I began my self-employed journey searching for greater flexibility around my family life, but what I found was fulfilment I’d never expected. While COVID was the catalyst for my unemployment, it also presented a life-changing opportunity for women to make the self-employed shift.

Virtual working has transformed work forever and made the move more attractive. Previously I’d dismissed freelancing thinking solo working would be lonely, but with the world stuck at home, it was less of a leap, with everyone on laptops in the kitchen together. Plus, the necessity of video calls in lieu of in-person meetings meant I was able to scale my business far quicker than if I’d been required to commute to meet clients and prospects face-to-face.

My clients were all juggling work-life balance too. A challenge which had predominantly been the preserve of mothers previously is something everyone now has lived experience of.  The gritty reality of life on screen for all to see led to greater acceptance of flexible working. In fact, IPSE’s research has found that self-employed women now account for 39 per cent of the overall self-employed workforce.

As a freelancer, I was able to choose my own destiny, earn more money, work less, and spend more time with my young family. No wonder I sound evangelical! In fact, I believe there has never been a better time to be self-employed in my industry with many talented women and mothers already making the change.

As my business has scaled over the past 15 months, I now employ other freelancers and plan to make a permanent hire within three months. But how I recruit for these people and the type of role I offer has changed too.

The pandemic brought perspective to everyone, especially Gen Z and Millennials. And while the Great Resignation may not have taken hold as first predicted it’s true that the UK workforce is changing – for the better for many women.

All the women I work with have other passions in their life which mean they don’t want or need a full-time salaried role. From Ellen, who freelances around travelling the UK in her camper van, to Rachel, who finds balance working for herself two days a week around her salaried role, to Kara, who is building her own personal coaching business alongside a marketing career and finally to Sarah, an artist, songwriter, and freelance copywriter. These women are the future of work.

And as a business owner, it’s compelling for me too. To be able to work with people who have multiple passions and skillsets means I can collaborate with more people and diverse perspectives. This is especially important in the early days of my business as I need to access lots of different competences, without being able to commit to multiple perm headcounts. When this talent works with me, they are more engaged and present because they are fulfilled in all aspects of their career and life.

Thanks in part to the change brought on by the pandemic, the future of work is made for women who won’t settle for a five-day 9-5. I am excited for the opportunity the post COVID world holds for me and the team of brilliant marketers, copywriters, designers, and strategists that I’ve built.

If you're interested in hearing more from Claire, then you can see her tomorrow on IPSE's International Women's Day panel. See more about the event below:

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IPSE is the leading association for contractors, consultants, interims, freelancers and the self-employed. We strive to bring our members the most comprehensive and useful range of information and services and all the latest news about what affects your business.