Women were forced out of the workforce in droves throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them turned to Airbnb as a result.
Last year, about 20% more women joined the platform than men, according to company data. Now, 56% of Airbnb’s global hosts identify as women, and 59% of hosts in the United States are women, the data show. New women hosts made more than $1.1 billion last year, including $550 million in the United States.
Airbnb has always done fairly well bringing in and retaining women hosts. The percentage of global hosts who identify as women has always hovered around 55% over the past several years. Nearly 60% of Superhosts are women as well.
Catherine Powell, Airbnb’s global head of hosting, said the increase in women is due to COVID.
“The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women,” Powell told Protocol, pointing to industries like hospitality, which is dominated by women and was hard-hit by the pandemic. “Hosting has been appealing to women, it has been an important source of income.”
Women considered downshifting or leaving the workforce more than men in 2020, according to data from McKinsey. Working mothers, women in senior management roles and Black women were affected the most. For example, the rate at which women with kids under 10 years old considered leaving was 10% higher than for men. And many women who considered leaving simply wanted more flexibility with their jobs.
“If you look at what hosting offers, it is incredibly flexible,” Powell added. “We have women on the platform who work full-time, who are able to host. We have women who are full-time parents or caregivers who are able to host.”
Women who left the workforce may have sought out alternative forms of revenue, one of which could have been Airbnb, said Angie Moody, the head of tax management platform Ruby Money. Moody, who has been an Airbnb host before, said women have more control over their income through Airbnb and can choose to work more or less during parts of the year depending on, say, their kids' school schedules. That's part of the reason there are more women on platforms like Shopify and Upwork: Some women prefer the flexibility of working their own hours.
"When you work for a company, you don’t really get to choose when to flex up or down, and all of these needs became foregrounded for women," Moody told Protocol. "They realized that they weren’t in control of their work schedule, so a lot of women are trying to take that control back and find new income streams."