Much has been said about the phenomenon of this century, the Sharing Economy. Known as the biggest business trend of all time it’s making an estimated $2 trillion contribution to the global economy. Despite women being very much on the agenda this week, thanks to International Women's Day, what’s not known, is the opportunity the Sharing Economy offers for women.
Equality in a Sharing Economy is the new normal and as this phenomenon rises, we’re witnessing the emergence of a system based on fairness, mutual respect and caring. In the last 5 years, we’ve seen a proliferation of apps and projects enabling women to share everything from cars, to cash. There’s Present, a networking app that connects women and the causes they care about; HeraHub, offering shared women’s workspaces, Girl Meets Dress – a fashion rental marketplace, removing the need to buy new and Piya Bose’s Girls on the Go Club, where women take shared expeditions to inspire world change. From CityGirl, to Pink Trotters, a global lifestyle network and of course the ubiquitous Mums.net, the sharing universe owes much to the 50% of the population that has been badly underserved.
With hi-tech transformation in process, issues such as online safety, trust in strangers and digital identity have come to the fore. The Sharing Economy has been quick to respond with new trust apps, verifying identities, facial recognition tools and background checks. The prominence and importance of ratings and reviews has resulted in a world where digital reputation is everything. Trust is the secret of the Sharing Economy – first we trust, then we share. This newfound trust has sparked ride-sharing aps exclusively for women -- there’s GoSafr in the US, Brazil has LadyDriver and Indonesia’s Ojesy, a motorbike sharing service for Muslim women and children has a growing user base. Despite the controversies over Uber, women report it as a safer option for them, one that is tracked and transparent for all to see. But women-focused sharing sites with trust embedded, don’t just stop at providing access to goods. For finance, there’s crowdfunding platform, Women You Should Fund and Say It Forward where, for each story shared, a financial contribution to a women’s cause is made.
In this caring, sharing new world order, women are often both the consumers and the creators – some, proving to be quite the trailblazing sharepreneurs. Antje Danielson and Robin Chase founded global car sharing club Zipcar, after meeting at their children’s nursery school; Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook have started a food-sharing revolution with Olio and Jessica Joines is transforming the world, one company at a time with the Consciousness Economy.
As consumers, women’s participation in the Sharing Economy on the increase with (according to one report), a 65% take up of Sharing services amongst women. Of course, they’re dominating fashion sharing sites such as Rent the Runway which boasts over 5 million female users and handicraft marketplace Etsy, where 86% of entrepreneurs on the platform, are women. In the home-sharing sphere, more than 1 million women host on Airbnb, (55% of their global host community), women’s participation is greater than men’s on food swap sites where home-grown and homemade food is exchanged and traded and notably in time banks, where time is the currency of exchange.
In the work arena, much has been said about the supposed shortcomings of the ‘gig economy’, a subset of the Sharing Economy. But, what’s wildly misunderstood, is that gig work (not suited to everyone) often provides opportunities for those who have been pushed to the margins of the labour market. Freelancer Union’s Sara Horowitz believes ‘freelancing is feminist’, since ‘a clear majority of full-time freelancers, 53% are women.’ She believes, that frustrated with the gender pay gap, and lack of opportunities in the male-dominated corporate world, women are increasingly choosing freelancing and the gig economy, as a way to achieve financial independence.
Crowdfunding is another Sharing arena where women are winning out. Two-thirds of female-led start-ups reached their Kickstarter funding goals, compared to one-third of male-led start-ups and competitor Indiegogo, found that women were five times more successful on crowdfunding sites than via traditional, venture capital fundraising routes.On average, successful women-led crowdfunding campaigns raise, 10.75% more money than those run by men. Even more interesting than these numbers, are the reasons often cited: women are more likely to attract ‘activist’ female backers who fund women in industries where they’ve been previously underrepresented and they have a tendency to start-up social impact ventures, leading to societal change. This women-helping-women trend, proves that crowdfunding is a game-changer, removing the male gatekeepers to currency, and revolutionising how women-owned businesses raise capital, in doing so, entrepreneurship is being democratised – yet another win for Sharing.
But perhaps, most significantly, women bring a consciousness to the Sharing Economy. Research shows that in business, women are more likely to make decisions based on ethics rather than profit, tending to justify actions based on an ethic of compassion, while men choose to adhere more to procedures or rules. This is borne out in the way women do business and the types of businesses they run. 40% of social enterprises (Sharing businesses) are led by women, as compared to 17% of traditional businesses. Women are also Sharing employers, being much more likely to pay fair wages and employ people from disadvantaged backgrounds, likely to create value collaboratively and find win-win solutions.
Over the next 5 years, the influence of women on the global economy as producers, entrepreneurs, consumers and employees is expected to be at least as significant of that of India and China’s 1 billion plus populations. Ultimately, women’s earnings and contribution to the economy and society at large will outstrip that of men. Yes, women are wielding significant influence over every aspect of life and are leading the change. In the gender equality stakes, the Sharing Economy is making headway in every area, from the home, to the workplace. For every challenge that currently exists for all genders, the Sharing Economy presents solutions. And as its influence grows, it is women who will ensure that everyone benefits from it.
Seems like the best place for women is in the Sharing Economy.
 BofAML, BIA/Kelsey, SIC: Primer on the Sharing Economy, 2017
 Benita Matofska, TEDx Frankfurt, The Secret of the Sharing Economy
 Sharing Economy UK, Productivity Report, 2016
 Women, Hosts & Airbnb: Building a Community Report, Airbnb, 2017
 Jason Greenberg, New York University, Ethan Mollick, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, 2016
 Indiegogo, 2010
 Indiegogo, 2010
 Study by Roberta Bampton and Patrick Maclagan,
 The State of Social Enterprise Report 2015, Social Enterprise UK, 2017
 Women in Enterprise: A Different Perspective, RBS Group
 E&Y, Women, the Next Emerging Market