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Women lose in gig economy, pay gap persists

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Rebecca Valli

Next Tuesday will mark Equal Pay Day, an annual event to raise awareness on income disparities between women and men. While unequal compensation is widespread across many industries, the gig economy may be particularly afflicted. Companies like Lyft or Uber have taken public steps towards ensuring workers the same treatment despite their gender. 


Adam Seth Litwin

Associate Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell’s ILR School

Adam Seth Litwin, professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, says the unregulated, informal nature of the gig economy is maintaining – if not increasing – the pay gap.

Litwin says:

“What makes the gig economy interesting from the standpoint of pay is that the customer and the employer are essentially the same person. Add that to the way the gig economy commoditizes work—allowing it to be bought and sold by the smallest possible unit, like buying potatoes by the pound—and we have a recipe for maintaining if not increasing the gender pay gap.

“Unfortunately, the more we subject pay-setting to unfettered, market-like forces, the less progress we make in shrinking the gender pay gap. Some of this may be the result of unconscious or even outright bias on the part of gig economy customers, socialized to believe that ‘women’s work’ ought to pay less than ‘men’s work.’ I suspect much more of the discrepancy can be explained by supply-side issues. Women may be less likely to be available for high value-added gig economy assignments and are likely to value their labor at lower pay rates or prices than men undertaking identical tasks.”


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