Q&A: The platform empowering female freelancers

With International Women’s Day being celebrated this coming Monday, we spoke to Fleur Madden, founder of Freelancing Gems. Fleur has built a platform dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering female freelancers across all industries. Championing female freelancers, consultants, hustlers, sole-traders and small-business owners, the platform is designed to provide them with the tools to reach their highest potential, and to address the significant gap between income rates for male and female freelancers.

ISB: What was the motivation behind you setting up Freelancing Gems?

FM: Freelancing Gems is Australia’s first freelancer jobs platform that is dedicated to supporting women at work in the gig economy. Statistically, women charge 38 per cent less than their male counterparts, mainly because they do not feel they have the support or knowledge to charge what they are worth.

We found this alarming when pay parity is so important in our society, so we’ve made it our mission to help women not only find meaningful work, but to educate them how to charge competitively and indeed to support them in their journey via learning opportunities and community. Then, COVID-19 hit and, as women have been disproportionately impacted with more women losing their jobs than men, we feel an even greater responsibility in our society to help women get back to work.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

FM: The biggest challenge in any new business is the cashflow it takes to get it off the ground. Freelancing Gems is a tech platform, so we were working on the business and building the jobs site for nine months before we launched. It did take significant investment to get it going and it will take more to see it reach its potential.

ISB: And what about the specific challenges and / or benefits of launching during the COVID crisis?

FM: As we are in a recession, everyone needs work which is a positive for us as a jobs platform, but a major issue globally. Freelancing Gems ensures the women on our platform have other opportunities to level up while they are finding their next contract or gig, through business coaching, masterclasses and tools.

ISB: How does Freelancing Gems go about addressing the fact that traditionally female freelancers / consultants have been paid less than their male counterparts?

FM: We have a rate card that gives our members a range of competitive pricing based on industry and experience, to guide them to ensure they are charging appropriately. We also have a lot of education for our members on ways to charge and the language to use to demonstrate their value. In addition to this, we provide financial and sales education for our members during the year, to build their confidence.

ISB: With International Women’s Day imminent, how do you see women’s role in the workplace developing in the years to come?

FM: Unfortunately, COVID-19 has widened the gender pay gap for women and opportunities for women to work have become more challenging. Female-dominated industries such as retail, hospitality and tourism were among the worst affected.

And this, coupled with the rise in unpaid care and domestic work, has posed a significant setback in progress towards gender and economic equality. We have a lot of ground to make up. This isn’t just an issue for women, this is an issue for our society as a whole and we need both men and women engaged and committed to having meaningful conversations and taking real action that puts gender diversity and equality front and centre.

ISB: And, finally, what is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

FM: The future is freelance! Our mission is to help as many women as possible to find meaningful work and to connect Australian employers with amazing female talent to help grow their businesses. I hope we see the impact of our work on helping women to feel confident to charge what they are worth. And from the employer side, I hope we see more Australian employers make diversity a priority.