New Market, Same Old Inequality? Experimental Evidence on the Gender Pay Gap on Social Media Platforms

Research question/goal: 

Despite recent improvements, women still earn less than men on average in developed countries (Eurostat, 2018). The gender pay gap appears to be even larger in the ever-growing sector of influencer marketing, in which men have a 24% percent pay advantage over women across all social media platforms (IZEA Insights, 2021). This is bad news for the strife to achieve gender equality, as influencer marketing seems to possess all the prerequisites for a more equitable situation: very low entry barriers in terms of resources and formal education, the complete absence of traditional structures and hierarchies, and very flexible working time models. Furthermore, influencers are expected to present themselves as innately trustworthy and communicative brand advocates, characteristics which are typically ascribed to women and should benefit their position (Duffy & Pruchniewska, 2017). Thus, we would expect that the traditional reasons put forward in the literature about the gender wage gap do not hold in this profession. Additionally, the influencer profession can be seen as a prototype of future work environments with self-responsible digital workers navigating on their own and without union representation between different groups of actors on the market. It is therefore even more important to study the phenomenon of women’s lower earnings in this sector to be able to consider possible countermeasures early on. In this project, we want to lay the groundwork for this discussion. That is, we conduct a series of randomized experiments complemented by the analysis of secondary data and in-depth interviews to examine the origins of the gender differences in earnings in the influencer market.

Current stage: 

The project started in August 2023 and has so far focussed on three aspects that will help us prepare a grant proposal and design our planned experimental studies: Firstly, we conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature addressing the work conditions and potential discrimination on the influencer market. Secondly, we are examining possibilities to automatically collect data from social media platforms to describe the market and develop prototypes for fictitious influencer profiles, which will be used later in the experiments. Thirdly, we are conducting interviews with influencers and influencer agencies to develop a deeper understanding of potentially influential factors in this field.

Fact sheet

2021 to 2025
Data Sources: 
Experiments, Instagram, interviews
Geographic Space: 
Germany, (USA)