View From Under the Glass Ceiling

Posted: December 17, 2013 in McTrip posts
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

imagesI prepared my friend that this would be a holiday party attended mainly by women.

Wow, I was spot on. It was like walking into a Tri Delt reunion. Or accidentally wandering into the women’s locker room at the gym.

These are writers who are part of an online community of which I’m also a member. But I’m new so I don’t recognize anybody and know only a few names. I predicted it would be mainly women because I see the daily postings, and they’re mostly women’s names.

Sure, there are a handful of guys at the party. A Burl Ives clone on the couch. A middle-aged dude in a tattered pilot jacket, nearly as disheveled as me—who may have hitchhiked to the party. Two cute guys in the far corner who, other than my friend and me, might be the only other gay guys here (spoiler alert: turns out they’re not gay.) And the husband of the couple who hosted the party.

Those are the men I remember seeing. And then there were like a hundred women.

“What else do you notice about the demographics?” I asked my friend.

“Young,” he said without missing a beat.

(Not one to disclose a friend’s age, I will only say his age and mine equals 100, and he’s eight months younger than me.)

Why not more men, we wondered. And is there anybody at this party who can tell us where they were the day John Lennon was shot? Or who attended a Cheap Trick concert?

I hope it’s possible to talk about a “female advantage,” even in reference to the gender imbalance at a party, without sounding chauvinistic. Because I’m trying to say quite the opposite. It’s high time a man (in this case me) walks into the “office holiday party” and feels like the minority.

I mean how many women over the years and, sadly, probably even today, find themselves in work situations or professional social gatherings where they’re drowning in testosterone?

That having been said, I’m still curious about the gender gap in freelance writing, if there is indeed one. I can’t find solid data to prove or disprove it, so I will offer assumptions and opinions in the absence of facts.

First, it’s nearly impossible to earn enough money as a freelance writer to support oneself. Yes there are people who do. And they’re the crème de le crème. In my brief time back in the freelance world, it appears the pay is about what it was when I left in the mid ‘90s. And there aren’t enough hours in the day to make that add up to a comfortable salary. Particularly expensive places to live like Los Angeles.

So I bet 90 percent of freelancers (men and women) are writing either as a hobby, as one of their many jobs, or to subsidize a significant others’ salary. All along hoping the compensation of 50-cents-a-word (or sometimes no compensation at all) will balloon into something major one day.

Still doesn’t explain why more women, though. So I asked a good female friend, who spent years as a successful freelance writer. She wondered if the better full-time writing gigs are going to men, pushing women into the “back-up” role (my term) of freelancer.

I will say this … if you’re a stay-at-home parent (and I believe there are more women doing that then men), what a great intellectual and creatively diversion, to be able to research, write and market your work all while holding down the home front. (By the way, one of the women I met at the party fits in this category exactly.)

I’m not saying all female freelancers are soccer moms. Or married to well-off spouses. Or independently wealthy. But if any of those things applied to me, I’d be less concerned about the untold hours I spend writing and researching relative to the compensation. There are plenty of times I think my time would be better spent looking for work that pays a living salary.

Then there’s the age question.

That’s easy. This is essentially a networking group. If you’re a star, you don’t need to network. You’ve built your clientele and the work follows naturally. If your talent is marginal, you’ll get chewed up and spit out before you have a chance to get older.

In the grand scheme, these gender/age questions are really insignificant. But that’s me, I enjoy contemplating trivial matters. It helps me avoid the weightier ones, like what will I bring to this party next year? And I’m not talking about pfeffernüsse or figgy pudding. I mean my oeuvre. What will it look like in a year? Will I be able to boast of writing successes? Or will I be spinning my wheels, stuck in the same “developmental” stage I’m in today?

Time will tell. One thing I know for sure, next year I’ll bring more men. Because like me, I’m sure most women don’t mind a dash of testosterone with their holiday cheer.

(To be continued…)

  1. Dewbie says:

    Chances are good that you will have more estrogen circulating in your body this time next year 😛 I love reading your work!

  2. Don Bigioni says:

    Sounds a bit like what we used to say about female realtors years ago i.e., soccer mom’s wanting to add some interest to their lives in between hours of driving/picking up the kids from games, or willing to cut their commissions because hubby was seeing to most or all of the monthly expenses. It didn’t discourage us in real estate, don’t let it discourage you as a freelance writer. Invite me to next year’s party; I’d be happy to be on the arm of a successful writer!

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