“Gig” work is more than just ride-sharing services like Uber; it could be an option for women executives in the hotel industry seeking flexibility in their work schedules.
“Dear Mom … please, please, please come home. I love you, but I’d love you more if you came home.”
As she reflects on her amazing career, Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s first female CEO, tells the story of her 5-year-old daughter writing her that note, and her regret about not spending more time with her children and family. It is heartbreaking, especially if you have lived it as a working mom.
We do not always consider work-life balance in our early career, but it is top of mind once we have kids. Women often face a black or white decision – opt in or out. And when you are standing at the precipice of that decision – whether you are the employee or the boss – it feels archaic given the ever-improving technological landscape.
What if you could take a third door? Given the advancement in technology and communication infrastructure, “gig” work has become a solution for more women and companies.
The gig economy, slang for a business approach based on flexible, temporary or freelance jobs, has evolved as companies recognize that connecting with prospects, customers and internal colleagues can be accomplished effectively through an online platform located outside of a traditional office environment. Gig workers include freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires.
Lower-level jobs such as driving for a rideshare company, tutoring or being a banquet server come to mind when people think of gig work. But it also reaches the C-suite. Debbie G. is a gig-CFO; she does high-level work for a roster of companies while they grow large enough to need a full-time CFO. Susan B. drives sophisticated marketing that enables lower-level sales teams for a roster of small hotel companies. Rapid transformation of the gig economy and validation of the gig work culture have been gamechangers for these women and the companies that benefit from their skills.
Increasingly, women can gain control over their careers by weaving together portfolios of gigs that build niche skill sets while allowing time flexibility. Gig ecosystem technologies match subject matter experts to companies that need specialized part-time or temporary work. Gig work is accelerating now as a dynamic tool for companies and workers facing dramatic fluctuations in staffing needs and budgets due to COVID-19.
Job security is dead, income security matters
COVID-19 ruptured the social contract that promised financial security in return for dedication to corporate schedules and priorities. For women on the precipice, if the demand to prioritize work over family doesn’t deliver financial security, then gig work and the time flexibility it provides for a family are mighty attractive.
Diane Mulcahy, the author of “The Gig Economy,” teaches the first course in the country on the Gig Economy for the MBA program at Babson College. The course gained immediate traction and was named by Forbes as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Business School Courses. Her view is that job security is dead, but you can still create income security, saying:
“… We do have agency over our income security. In the gig economy, a portfolio of work provides income security by protecting you against the possibility of losing all your income all at once.”
Prior to the pandemic, companies were increasingly disaggregating work from full-time permanent jobs. As corporate leaders navigate the pandemic, they are exploring solutions and opportunities to streamline, adapt and upgrade their processes and they are asking questions made possible by the gig economy.
Does the work need to be permanently fixed to an org chart? What procedures can be outsourced? How are job functions that remain internal streamlined? Can they be combined, moved up or down in the organization or redefined? What labor options can be flexed?
Recruiting firms and corporate human resources departments are beginning to recognize the opportunity. A company leveraging gig work within their employment structure, PwC’s Talent Exchange connects independent talent with PwC opportunities. We Are Rosie in the marketing sector dedicates a manager to each client account and picks the “perfect” expert or team within 72 hours to meet their needs. Catalant works with 30% of the Fortune 100, among others, to accelerate and deliver pivotal work through an online marketplace of experts. Prowess Project is making great headway with their model providing companies with “Fractional Business Managers” by tapping into the stay-at-home mom talent pool. Scalable platforms to aggregate and match gig work opportunities with gig workers are emerging by specialty and field, and in several formats.
Some careers will become more fluid, with periods of fixed employment mixed with intermittent portfolios of gig work. This will support more agile teams that learn fast and manage ambiguity and complexity.
Women have a huge opportunity to benefit from the gig economy. But men will benefit from the culture shift as well. And as people rethink retirement, gig work enables working into later years. As we culturally rethink income security versus job security and seek more flexibility to integrate our lives, the gig economy will give new choices to companies and workers.
Companies want to work differently, people want to work differently and COVID-19 makes new ways of working imperative. We are at the Intersection of these interests. In response, this third door – the gig economy – is opening in an unprecedented way.
Diane Tanner Fox is SVP, Asset Management of CHMWarnick.
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