The Influencer Pay Gap: How Female Australian Creators Are Missing Out

Image via Getty Images.
Social media is often touted as this feminist utopia where anyone can be somebody. Sure, it’s democratic in a way that we don’t see with traditional media; anyone with a smartphone and internet connection can make content that has the ability to be seen by millions. 
Focusing in on our little island of the world even, and you needn’t look far to find the digital personalities that are making it big — from makeup artists to TikTok comedians and cosplay icons. Becoming a content creator is a dream job for many, with more kids aspiring to become professional YouTubers than astronauts. It’s also an industry that’s women-dominated. According to Statista, 84% of social media influencers are women.

Overall, millennial men who live in capital cities and are active on TikTok earn the most in our creator economy.

But recent research has found a glaring sexism problem that resides in Australia’s influencer industry. A survey of more than 500 content creators by YouGov and Vista found that men are, on average, out-earning women. 
Overall, millennial men who live in capital cities and are active on TikTok earn the most in our creator economy. While the average yearly income was found to be $52,744, for men, that number rose to $57,000 and for women, it dropped to $49,000. That's an $8,000 pay gap.
For founder of creative social agency Pash Social, Ash Davidson, this pay disparity isn’t what she has seen in her experience working with brands such as Ultra Violette, Mecca and Frank Body. “[Women] dominate the influencer space across the Australian beauty and fashion industries,” she tells Refinery29 Australia.
Kat Moses, founder of talent agency MGMT, echoes this. “We've never applied a gendered lens to [monetary] conversation and haven't experienced this with our brand partners. To the contrary of this research, it's been exciting and empowering to see women (of all ages!) often billing the most within our agency,” she tells Refinery29 Australia.
Davidson notes that the gender pay gap in this industry isn’t unique. “I think it's safe to say there's most likely consistencies that drive the gender pay gap across any industry,” she adds. 
We know that influencing is a women-led industry, and despite a few high-flyers who rake in large sums of money, it's an inconsistent playing field for the majority.
‘Women belong in the kitchen’, but male chefs still get paid more. Globally, women make up around 90% of nurses, but male nurses still get paid more. Even in the Instagram space, it’s presumed that the two highest earners are Cristiano Ronaldo and Dwayne Johnson. 

“People seem to have a lot of respect for radio [and] TV presenters as entertainers but not for influencers.”

Kitch Catterall
“It's important for people to acknowledge [influencing] as legitimate work,” Melbourne-based content creator Kitch Catterall tells Refinery29 Australia. “People seem to have a lot of respect for radio [and] TV presenters as entertainers but not for influencers.”
They say that it “doesn't surprise” them that this gender pay gap exists and acknowledge it may be because well-known male media personalities transfer their already budding success to social media. “I do feel like we see women consistently show their business prowess and intellect on social media, [many of whom] have multiple income streams,” she says, pointing to notable figures like Tammy Hembrow and Sarahs Day.
And legitimate business owners they should be recognised as. Vista found that 84% of surveyed content creators had paid someone to help them make content in the past 12 months; from these, eight in 10 people hired four of more people. Women were also more likely to want to shift their social media from a ‘side hustle’ to their main income source in the next five years.
Another finding from the survey is that TikTok is the most lucrative platform, with creators earning an average of $71,000 per year from the site. Followed by YouTube ($67,000), Snapchat ($65,000), Twitter ($65,000), Instagram ($61,000), Facebook ($59,000), WhatsApp ($59,000) then Reddit ($58,000).
For her own talent, Moses has seen this rise in TikTok sponsorships. “We have [seen] a strong shift in brand investment from Instagram to TikTok, particular in this past year,” she says, adding that the organic reach of the platform far outweighs Instagram.
“We continue to [see] brands investing more year on year into influencers — the results really speak for themselves. What is most refreshing is the diversity of talent brands are demonstrating an appetite to work with.”
There’s no crystal ball that will map out what the Australian influencer industry will look like in the next five or 10 years. We’ve already seen new regulations be implemented, new technology and new social media sites being launched, and a new wave of content styles overriding the old guard. 
Wherever the social media world ends up in the next decade though, we can count on women being the leading force in the space. With influence, comes power. Let's hope that the dollar figures come to reflect that.
Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!

More from Tech