Proportion of female IT contractors increases by 25%

Women still only account for 16.5% of the entire IT contractor market

More women than ever before are joining businesses as contractors, attracted to the more flexible working practices, despite the risks associated with self-employment.

According to a study by accountancy business Nixon Williams, the number of female IT workers switching to self-employment increased by almost 25% between 2016 and 2017. Women now account for 16.5% of the total IT contractor market, up from 13.8% in 2016.

"There are more women in IT in both permanent and contracting roles, but the increasing proportion of contractors who are women is particularly significant as contractors tend to earn more than their permanent counterparts, which suggests that the pay gap between men and women in the IT sector is likely to be narrowing," Derek Kelly, chief executive officer of Nixon Williams said.

But it's not just women attracted to the benefits of working for themselves. The number of IT workers now self-employed has increased by 4.5% over the last 12 months - more than the general IT workforce increase of 3.9% year-on-year.

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"The increase in the proportion of the IT workforce operating as contractors has been driven by demand from both IT professionals and the end users of their skills," Kelly added. "The shift in the composition of the IT workforce since the financial crisis is doubly remarkable because much of the change is due to an influx of women into contracting."

He said that although contracting is generally riskier than standard employment, more people are recognising the benefits of working for themselves as in-house benefits are losing momentum.

"In areas which suffer from chronic skills shortages, such as IT and engineering, many contractors are rarely out of work, and higher levels of pay generally more than compensate for any gaps between contracts," Kelly said.

It also has greater benefits for cash-strapped businesses too. Because firms can't guarantee their cashflow with the threat of Brexit, businesses are favouring using contractors, which present a smaller financial risk.

"The current economic uncertainty is making the use of contractors increasingly attractive to organisations," Kelly finished. "With future demand so hard to predict many organisations are deferring hiring decisions and turning to contractors to provide additional capacity."

Image credit Shutterstock 

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