How the Gig Economy Helps Boost Diversity
Online platforms for freelance workers provide an unparalleled opportunity to work with millions of people who aren't necessarily like you.
It's easy to be swept up in the negative rhetoric around the gig economy. Too often "on demand" workers are framed by the media purely as a cost-cutting tactic for businesses. Somehow the professional experience and expertise of the humans behind the screen get left out of the conversation.
Think of it this way: Online platforms are a unique space where the world's best talent can connect both with each other to exchange ideas and share feedback, and with people and organizations actively seeking their specific skills. They create a truly level playing field irrespective of location, gender, age or background.
When you remove the barriers of geography and social background -- which is what Silicon Valley's call for "democratization" ultimately is -- the creative possibilities are endless.
Our industry talks tirelessly about improving diversity. We need to celebrate the evolution of platform work as a step in a fairer direction, and see it for what it is: an unparalleled opportunity to work with millions of people who aren't necessarily like you.
Diversity in ideas adds value.
Not looking more deeply into the benefits of our emerging global workforce does a disservice to the people around the world using online platforms to build their careers. Truly flexible work has never been this accessible, and is a valuable pipeline for people like stay-at-home parents, retirees or creatives who find they do their best work on the road. Valuing flexibility over more traditional benefits shouldn't be dismissed as a somehow less valid choice; as a society we should encourage people to work in a way that works for them.
In addition, there's plenty of evidence that a globally distributed talent network can radically improve a company's output and available skill set. Research from McKinsey shows that ethnically diverse businesses are 35 percent more productive and 9 percent more profitable. However, as any business owner knows, achieving diversity isn't always as easy as we'd like. The platform economy offers a solution in a ready-made global network of skills and international perspectives.
Access the best people and projects.
Freelancers have been the lifeblood of the creative industries almost since their inception, so the concept of tapping into on-demand talent is nothing new in fields like design, music, film or writing. What online platforms have succeeded in doing is opening up this model to the rest of the world, making it easier for freelancers to find interesting work, and making talented creatives more accessible to clients.
While the platform economy has created a new global wave of creative diversity, there's still some way to go in getting more people comfortable with the idea that the best person for the job isn't necessarily in the same time zone or country as them.
The key point that's missing from so much of the narrative around the gig economy is that companies put significant effort into attracting, nurturing and retaining skilled people. After all, the best talent will always have options -- and working within the platform economy is just one of them.
Ignore international talent at your own risk.
Creative talent is a commodity in demand, and that talent truly is everywhere. No skilled worker should be disadvantaged because of where they were born or where they live. Platforms have broken down borders in the creative industries, and ultimately made them a much fairer place to work.
As a global society, we should celebrate this: Businesses have never had access to such depth and reach of creative talent before. To miss out on the benefits of this diversity simply because we are stuck in well-worn narratives and assumptions is such a waste of potential for a society in desperate need of creative diversification.