Many workers are starting side ventures to supplement incomes and find long-term stability. But some experts argue this is even more important for women, writes Renuka Rayasam.

Ashland Viscosi had a full-time job working in development and marketing at the Austin Film Society in Texas, when an acquaintance offered her part-time work consulting for independent film productions. 

Viscosi had been thinking about branching out from her full-time job, and the offer gave her a chance to try her hand at entrepreneurship. Within six months she had left her full-time position at AFS, and six months after that she started her own venture, called Creatives Meet Business, an event and podcast series that helps creative people develop business skills. 

More workers should consider starting side ventures to supplement their incomes and provide long-term stability

Leaving the confines of a full-time job for a side venture may sound risky, but Viscosi is now much happier not having to rely on anyone else to make ends meet.

“I like being in ownership of everything in my life,” she says. “I don’t ever want give that up again.”

With job security a thing of the past for many, some experts recommend that people follow Viscosi’s example. They say that more workers should consider starting side ventures to supplement their incomes and maybe even provide them long-term stability.

Some experts believe that women are more vulnerable to changes than men later in their careers, making a side-hustle even more important.

Shifting winds

People too often trust their corporate careers to provide them financial security, but don’t anticipate layoffs or other potential setbacks, says Nely Galan, former president of the American Spanish language network Telemundo and author of Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way.

“2008 was a game-changer for everyone,” says Galan. Because of the financial crisis which affected economies globally, “it became a necessity to become entrepreneurial because so many people lost jobs.”

A 2015 study found middle-aged women received fewer callbacks on job applications than younger women. Meanwhile, the rate of callbacks for middle-aged and younger men were about the same

A January 2016 report from the World Economic Forum predicts that five million jobs will be lost by 2020 in the 15 largest economies.

Galan believes that women are more vulnerable to shifting winds, making it even more important for them to start a side hustle that helps them supplement their income and potentially create more long-term stability.

The pay gap divide isn’t new and there is plenty of research to show corporate life has been less generous to women, both financially and in roles breaking through the glass ceiling.

“We’re not making strides for women,” Galan says.

Older women are generally more vulnerable to losing their jobs and they have a harder time finding new ones, says Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership. She points to a 2015 study that shows middle-aged women received fewer callbacks on job applications than younger women. Meanwhile the rate of callbacks for middle-aged and younger men were about the same.

In speaking with hundreds of women in their 50s and 60s, Rikleen also found that many of the women she interviewed had supervisors curtail responsibilities and lower pay, even as they were supposed to be working their way up the corporate ladder.

Women disproportionally suffer from ageism in the workplace because of the double stigma of age and gender and a heightened emphasis on physical appearance

She thinks that women disproportionally suffer from ageism in the workplace because of the double stigma of age and gender as well as the heightened emphasis on women’s physical appearance.

“It’s terrible,” she says, about the double standards that women face in the workplace. “To say ‘it’s not fair’ is an understatement.”

In the United States, full-time working women are paid 80 cents for every dollar that men are paid, according to an October 2016 study from the Economic Policy Institute.

The pay gap divide becomes particularly pernicious as workers approach retirement — lower salaries translate into lower savings, which means women have less available to them when they stop working.

“If you have not had gender pay equity throughout your career, you will not have the same resources available to you as male counterparts in retirement,” Rikleen says.

Backup plans

To combat these discrepancies, workers today need to have a backup plan, according to Galan, who says that women shouldn’t waste time waiting for corporate settings to become more equitable. Instead they should find other ways to become self-reliant.

She says that being entrepreneurial shouldn’t be daunting and it doesn’t mean quitting your day job. She suggests starting small and learning along the way, before building up to something bigger.

Galan, who started selling Avon cosmetics at the age of 14, recommends that workers should start trying to earn a little extra money using one hour a week, even if it’s as simple as selling used clothes, books or other items online. She says that with new platforms today people can be creative in how they supplement incomes — driving for a ride-sharing service, renting out your home, designing websites or selling something handmade online.

While those gigs may not make you much at first, they provide a crash course in crucial business aspects like pricing and marketing.

Everyone can exercise that entrepreneurial muscle

“You will learn business whether you like it or not,” Galan says. “Not everyone is going to start a business, but everyone can exercise that entrepreneurial muscle.”

Viscosi’s first foray into entrepreneurship helped teach her what she needed to know to get up and running on her own. It taught her to ask the right questions and better analyse potential opportunities.

Now she says she makes a little more than she did at her full-time job and being her own boss has helped her stabilise her income. When one aspect of her business is slow, she can count on another one to pick up.

“It’s helped me segment and diversify my income streams,” the 31-year-Viscosi says. She now gets revenue from three sources: she helps organisations produce events, collects consulting fees for helping clients navigate business hurdles and speaker fees for sharing her expertise.

From side-hustle to full-time

For some, side-hustles eventually turn into full-time gigs.

Kaley Coffield used her summer break from teaching primary school in Austin, Texas to create a business called Austin Learnshop, which puts together classes and workshops with local artisans such as woodworkers, soap makers and chefs.

While teaching provided the 31-year-old stability, she knew there was a limit to how much she could earn and she wanted to gain skills that she couldn’t as a teacher. To focus on her side-business full time, she quit teaching last summer. While she doesn’t yet earn as much as she did as a teacher, she likes being able to rely on herself.

“I think any job you choose has a limited ability to provide you with security,” says Coffield. “But the idea of creating your own job, whether it works out for you or it doesn't, is empowering in a way that only seeking outward employment never could be.”

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