Gender pay gap

A Postfeminist Sensibility Analysis In the Online Nexus & Cybersexism

Blean Tsige

This essay will focus on topics surrounding the discrimination women have to endure in the online world. The main aim is to analyze the postfeminism sensibility at work in the online nexus. Specifically, the essay scrutinizes the gender pay gap between female and male influencers. The problem is that this income inequality seems to be blamed on other factors but sexism. Therefore, it is suggested that there needs to be more focus on cybersexism. This concept tends to traditionally be associated with issues with women who use the internet and end up with trolls mistreating them. However, the main problem, in the women-dominated niche, is that female influencers get paid less.



“ We are in 2022 and I am no longer surprised by the gender pay gap [...] despite women being the majority in the influence marketing niche, its men who earn more.” 

[Dias, 2022]


Women are being paid less than men, with sponsored content and promotions including multiple content types on social media platforms (Dias, 2022). This was found in the data published by Izea (2022), which suggests that there is an immense gender pay gap in the online nexus. Their main goal was to insinuate “for diversity and inclusion in influencer marketing and beyond”, stated the Founder and CEO of Izea, Ted Murphy (IZEA, 2022). However, the data brought to light disturbing problems, most people were not aware of, since women are dominating this sort of job (Dias, 2022). According to Geyser (2022), regarding sponsored posts on Instagram, “84% of them were posted by female influencers while only 16% were posted by male influencers” (Geyser, 2022). 

This means that it would be expected for women to have at least equal pay on these platforms, but the opposite was found to be true. Instead, “the pay gap between male and female influencers widened between 2020 and 2021 after narrowing the year prior”, states the IZEA (2022) data findings (IZEA, 2022). In another study, the same problem was demonstrated, which was “that male influencers make an average of 30% more per post than female influencers do” (Geyser, 2022).

The discourse surrounding the gender pay gap has drastically changed over the years. In order to show these developments, the main aim of this essay will be to outline the female influencers' experience on social media platforms regarding their pay in comparison to men, by analysing data found in marketing. First, this data will be scrutinised to understand the postfeminist sensibility at work and how this happens in the online nexus. Second, the role of cybersexism as a concept will be introduced. This will, as well, receive new forms to its old definitions, since the gender pay gap is not included in this sort of discrimination. 

Previous studies have shown that the main problem surrounding women using the internet was to - ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ (Poland, 2016, pg. 62). The main aim of this research was to analyse why the advice about cybersexism fails. Nonetheless, new statistics have proven, that women are suffering a much bigger problem, in a women-dominant job that involves the internet,  which is inequality in income (IZEA, 2022). Therefore it is vital to apply the works of academics such as Gill et al. (2017) and Poland (2016), to examine the issues the paper aims to answer the questions, which is how the contemporary gender pay gap and social media shape the perception of women in the workforce. What cultural and social practices are of the essence?  



“[...] finding that despite persistent gender inequalities in organizations (e.g., in pay, status, and tenure), gender is frequently downplayed or even completely disavowed as a relevant factor. Sexism is often denied and a sense of ennui or fatigue characterizes many discussions of gender in the workplace.” 

[Gill et al., 2017, pg. 241]


The main objective of this essay is to make a postfeminist analysis of the female discrimination that takes place in contemporary society, which struggles to achieve an equal income base for men and women. Postfeminism insinuates “as an epistemological break with second-wave feminism [...] ‘post’, [...], implies transformation and change and signals a critical engagement with earlier/other forms of feminism” (Gill et al., 2017, pg. 228). However, the research by Gill (2017) scrutinizes postfeminism as sensibility at work, additionally, the workplace is to be considered, in this perspective, the online nexus. According to Gill (et al., 2017), postfeminism sensibility at work is traditionally understood as an organization, but in the online nexus, this sort of organization is only found online. The other problem Gill (et al., 2017) mentions is that “feminist issues remain stubbornly ignored - particularly those concerned with low pay”(Gill et al., 2017, pg. 226). In this case, it is vital to focus on gender pay gap issues within social media platforms when influencers post, and how male and female influencers are treated and paid differently. 

Men and women are not only paid differently but also treated differently online. For example, when dealing with abuse online, according to Poland (2016), “advice is sometimes well-intentioned but often delivered in the form of mansplaining response to a woman who is pointing out that cybersexist abuse has been directed her way” (Poland, 2016, pg. 61). However, Poland (2016) elaborates further that he would not consider all men to bear all fault. However, it is difficult to assume that men seem to suffer and have consequences when using the internet because it seems as if they are living in a sort of protected shell. Additionally, Poland (2016) states that “online, as offline, however, women have little power to do significant damage to men, and attacks on men from women are more likely to be in response to a man’s sexism than the first overture in deliberate abuse of men” (Poland, 2016, pg. 69). The same appears to be true in this case, which is that the gender pay gap is often times ignored or seen as insignificant (Gill et al., 2017). Especially in the women-dominated field, such as influencing, women should have a better time online. However, they are treated worse and suffer a tremendously unequal income in comparison to men.



“Although female influencers continue to own the majority of influencer marketing deal flow, male influencers’ share of transaction volume jumped from an all time low in 2020 to an all-time high at 15%”

[IZEA, 2022]


After scrutinising the female experience of the gender pay gap in the online nexus and discussing the related issues related to discrimination, it is vital to take the next step by examining contemporary data which indicates cultural issues. The data published by IZEA (2022) displays statistics on influencers' income and the inequality women had to endure when they got paid for a post (Figure 1). However, it is important to note that IZEA (2022) has found that the average earnings have increased for all influencers regardless of their genders. The problem is that even though women are predominantly part of the market, they tend to have the lowest deal flow since the beginning of IZEA (2022) reporting in 2015. As a consequence, it could be suggested that women are not being adequately helped, in order for the gender pay gap to decrease. The outcome would mean that this issue will continuously grow. 

For this gender pay gap to exist is particularly peculiar, since influencing is a new type of job. The main aim of social media influence is for someone who has “established a reputation for themselves on social media” (Lokithasan et al., 2019, pg. 21). It is further understood that the influencer is an “important role for the marketing tool for organizations [...] organizations use the power of social media influencers to influence and persuade consumers through social media” (Lokithasan et al., 2019, pg.21). These mentioned attributes of an influencer do not acquire for the person who executes the job to be of a particular gender. In this case, it is odd that the treatment of men and women is not equal if the job seems to not require a certain gender to have certain abilities that the other one cannot fulfil. 

Figure 1. IZEA displays the gender pay gap between male and female influencers.




Not only are women being paid less for the same job men are doing on social media platforms, but women experience also other sorts of unfair treatment. For example, another problem that has become evident is that women are often referred to as influencers in this line of work, while men are considered creators (Ellis, 2019). These sorts of names are given to anyone working in this sort of job, regardless of their success, but men appear to have the upper hand when it comes to titles. In fact, “men of the internet will fracture their own vertebrae to avoid being called influencers” (Ellis, 2019). 

Even though influencers or content creators, in principle, do the same line of duties within social media marketing, men do not have to associate themselves with the word influence. Being an influencer implies a certain stigma because men “think of themselves as artists or members of the entertainment industry” (Ellis, 2019). This sort of treatment seems discriminatory and indistinguishable from postfeminism sensibility or cybersexim, because online users/viewers describe women as influencers as well. However, women are most of the time consistently patronized for being paid less and it seems to be that most do not want to view the inequality in income as a gender issue (Gill et al., 2017). 


Income Inequality


In order to understand the overall inequality of income, the data of IZEA (2022) displayed the problem. Men were paid $2,978 on average per post in comparison to women, which is 30% more. The only time men were paid less than women was for Instagram stories, where on average women earned $962 per post and men only $609 (IZEA, 2022). The data furthermore showed that women were only able to earn more money than men as influencers, in 2021 (Figure 1). This goal could only be achieved if women are considered more valuable than men for social media marketing jobs. However, “brands invest less in promoting ads with women in professional roles”, which is in association with social media marketing (Karlovitch, 2022). This is because “social media influencers could promote to and reach a large number of consumers in a short time” (Lokithasan et al., 2019, pg.21). Moreover, if brands want to promote and prefer men, but social media platforms are dominated by women, this will give men more opportunities to receive a job and be paid more. 

Overall, the gender pay gap is present in the online and offline world. In the offline world, excuses for women being offered less money conventionally relate to “women opting for less strenuous jobs, taking time off for childcare, not negotiating to the level that men do, etc.” (Geyser, 2022). In the online world, these excuses have not become evident yet, because this data is new and mostly undisclosed. Organizations, do not have to come up with explanatory reasoning as to why most women are paid less for social media marketing posts. In this case, solutions have to consequently appear before the problems arise to become as immense. 

According to Influencer MarketingHub, influencer income inequality could be combated with four strategic plans (Geyser, 2022). These are 1. Pay transparency, 2. Set rates, 3. Rate research and 4. Negotiations (Geyser, 2022). The offered strategic solutions are similar to what has been suggested within the offline world, however, neither the gap there nor online seems to close even if the solutions are evident. 



“Making actual progress on gender equality [...] The difficult part is actually integrating that within your culture and your hiring practices [...] We really just wanted to make sure that we can still hold these companies accountable when their words and actions don’t line up.” 

[Dodgson, 2022]


The topics discussed in this analysis deal with normative ideas surrounding the gender pay gap that changed throughout the past and how the standard of inequality is nowadays being challenged by contemporary workplaces such as social media platforms. For instance, traditionally viewed perspectives in statistical data by IZEA and marketing newspapers are challenged through this apparent new problem. Therefore, the presented arguments are that the inequality in income is demonstrated with female and male influencers, and it has been argued for a lack of awareness, which is still present in today’s society when it comes to gender inequality. This is due to the fact, that there is a scarcity of data, acknowledgement and willingness for admission by organisations. The role of trolls was mentioned as a part of the behavioural influence people of all ages are subject to, which outlines the consistent increase in gender inequality, in other words, it examines how women are treated online.

The transformations in the public perception of gender inequality are informed by a postfeminist sensibility at work topic, and by statistical data from Marketing brands, IZEA reports and social media. In fact, to relieve the societal pressure put on women, this essay argues that an increased representation of women in brand deals is sought. Nonetheless, there is still an absence of coverage on this topic by mainstream media outlets, visual media and television media. In this case, the presented facts are a peculiarity of the bigger issue. And as argued by Gill (et al., 2017), is that postfeminist sexism has dynamic features to it, which means that it is able to transform into something new. The change can happen at any second and it is evident that this sort of altercation is evident in the field of gender and organization (Gill et al., 2017). In this respect, it is possible to conclude that the issue is not to be confided in the online world, but that also cultural attitudes towards women have to be reshaped through mainstream media. It is therefore assumed that this has not been completely gratified. 




Dias, L. ( 2022, March 17). Women Influencers are the majority, but earn 30% less than men. Why is that again?. Rockcontent blog.


Dodgson, L. (2022, March 8). How a Twitter bot went viral by shaming companies on International Women’s day. Insider.


Ellis, E.G. (2019, May 29). Why Women Are Called ‘Influencers’ and Men ‘Creators’. WIRED. 


Geyser, W. (2022, October 13). Income Inequality in male vs. Female influencers. Influencer MarketingHub.


Gill, R., Kelan, E.K. & Schraff, C.M. (2017). A Postfeminist Sensibility at Work. Gender, Work & Organization. Volume 24. Pg. 226-245.


IZEA. (2022, February 1). IZEA Releases the 2022 State of Influencer Equality. IZEA.


Karlovitch, S. (2022, March 10). Brands invest less in promoting ads with women in professional roles, study finds. MARKETINGDIVE.


Lokithasa, K., Simon, S., Jasmin, N.Z.B., Othman, N.A.B. (2019). Male and female social media influencers: the impact of gender on emerging adults. International Journal of Modern Trends in Social Sciences. Volume 2(9), pg. 21-30. 


Poland, B. (2016). Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online. Potomac Books.