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  • Annette Corbett

Why women should contract

This blog is the first in a segment about why women should consider contracting as an alternative to permanent work.

I was an advocate for contracting long before I mentally joined the dots of just how different my working experience was compared to my permie, female counterparts. By different I mean; more flexibility, more opportunities to upskill or pivot, improved income, zero direct reports, reduced politics.

I began reading the McKinsey Women at Work report series, which traverses eight years of dispiriting statistics, to see if my theory had legs. Could contracting be the solution to the patriarchal and societal bias which keeps women pegged back at work?

Some highlights from the latest report include:

  • women represent roughly one in four C-suite leaders, and women of colour just one in 16

  • for the ninth consecutive year, women face their biggest hurdle at the first critical step up to manager, the so-called “broken rung”

  • microaggressions are on the rise, compromising psychological safety and necessitating adaptive behaviour, so that women can “fit in” and protect themselves

  • workplace flexibility is not just for COVID times (or purely for the benefit of women), ranking above benefits such as parental leave and childcare across all genders

But it doesn’t end there, does it?

A good friend of mine - who works in a senior leadership role and manages several direct reports - met me for dinner last week, over which we consumed several porn star martinis and compared notes on just why it is SO hard for women to find their career mojo. We decided to spitball some theories on blockers that exist in our personal lives, arguably, some of which are within our control to challenge.

What follows won’t be the experience of everyone and may sound controversial but it IS the experience of many women….prepare to poke the bear.

Family and caring commitments

This may be something that you manage as a single parent, or as a partnership, but the difference between the two camps can be negligible when it comes to hands on deck co-parenting.

We’ve moved on since the 1950’s and the balance of responsibility for childcare has shifted somewhat, but the value attributed to the professional role of men, perceptibly outranks that of women (in their own minds at least, and certainly in the minds of your in-laws). Their meetings are more high brow, their presence in the office non-negotiable, their employment pivotal to the financial fortitude of your family.

And so domestic contribution is deprioritised.

Again, I’ll caveat that this may not be your experience, but for a staggering 60% of women who bear the brunt of unpaid work, it is very much a reality.

Imagine trying to be fully present in your day job while physically and mentally stacking and restacking those domestic Jenga blocks?


This is definitely more a female emotion. I can share one example of mutual guilt my friend and I agreed on (animatedly discussed over cocktail number two).

Our mothers and mothers-in-law.

Their innate ability to project disappointment when we can’t chat on the phone for very long, increase the frequency of our visits (amidst balancing full-time work and raising a family), dedicate an entire block of time to spend exclusively with them at Christmas….

The list is endless and this, from someone who probably had to navigate the same guilt once upon a time?! This paradoxical emotional heirloom is handed down to each generation of women, from the very people that should be cutting them slack and telling them to spend their time as suits them best.

But guilt doesn’t stop there.

Social media tells us we should be fitter, slimmer, more beautiful, better at cooking and parenting. And naturally, the only posts you ever see are of women who have all of that on lock. Like lemmings, we gravitate towards their feed, simultaneously crippled by exaltation and loathing in equal measure.


It’s no small irony that, just as women begin to gain a little professional headway (once the kids are more independent) they struggle to remember their own name, much less that of anyone else they happen to speak to. Mental wheels spin while mouth uselessly flaps open and shut. Welcome to the ultimate in female kryptonite; menopause. Not much to be done about that except to say, we see you.

But we are never “seen” for making it through a day of managing multiple deadlines and expectations so perhaps we should celebrate our own prowess at just getting sh*t done, because its no mean feat to keep this five star cruise liner afloat, lets be honest!

In the meantime, I’ll be blogging about how contracting can help with your professional blockers, and your personal ones. But not those relating to your mother-in-law. That requires a whole different kind of contract and you’ll need to look elsewhere for that.

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