Women and BIPOC Are Earning Way Less Than White Men When Monetizing Online Content

New data from Adobe shows that a majority of ‘non-professional’ content creators are struggling to make a buck, but it's much harder for some more than others.

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A camera takes a video of a young black woman
Data shows that beginning influencers who are women and people of color are making 20% to 21% less on average than white men.
Photo: fizkes (Shutterstock)

There is a wide discrepancy between how small time and up-and-coming content creators on social media are being paid just as more folks are hoping to generate some new income by monetizing their content on social media.

According to new insights released by Adobe based on their Future of Creativity study from earlier this year, 53% of U.S. “non-professional” creators are monetizing their work. More than half of creators in Brazil, Germany, the UK and South Korea are also drawing money from these platforms’ monetization systems. The vast majority, 77%, have only started making money from their content in the past year.

However, among those accounts there is an incredible discrepancy between the amount of money women and BIPOC creators are making compared to their white, male counterparts. Men are reportedly making $55 per hour, but Adobe researchers said women are making 20% less ($44). Meanwhile, white monetizers make an average of $62 per hour while people of color make 21% less ($49).


The gender pay gap in the U.S. averages to about 82 cents per dollar that men make, and it’s worse for women of color especially, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest job report. McKinsey & Company’s 2021 report about the job market for Black people in the U.S. found there are “clear racial patterns” that Black workers are paid less for similar jobs than white counterparts.

So when 77% of burgeoning creators, most of them still young, say that this money from creating content makes up more than half their monthly income, it seems the gender and racial pay gaps have only been exacerbated by the demands of digital viewership. Of those surveyed for Adobe’s report, nearly a third of young BIPOC creators started monetizing videos with the hope of turning it into a career, and 53% said they were trying to make it their own business.


It backs up previous studies from the likes of communications company MSL, which last year found that over three quarters of Black influencers get an average of $27,000 from brand and promotions, compared to 59% of white influencers. Only 23% of Black influencers were making more than $100,000 a year, compared to white respondents. And based on a survey of over 400 influencers, 49% of Black respondents said their race impacted their lowball offers from companies.

In the MSL survey, Black creators said the best way to deal with this issue is demand pay transparency from brands. Content creators’ revenue most often comes from shares of ad revenue, online shop sales, or from brand sponsorships, and how much creators can make from each will depend wildly on the different platform. For example, the majority of Twitch creators and all TikTok streamers see a 50/50 split with the platform for subscriptions. On the other hand, YouTubers require thousands of views per video before they start seeing any real cash in hand, and that’s all before they become big enough to get companies offering them sponsorships or payments for product promotions.


The original Adobe Future of Creativity study was based on a survey of 9,000 “non-professional” creators from May this year. The respondents were from some of the countries with the highest internet use, including the U.S., Spain, France, Germany, The UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil.

The report made no statement regarding global audience preferences or about platforms that rely on algorithms which shovel content to users based on what it thinks you want to watch. However, a 2021 report from Business Insider showed how Black creators on TikTok said the platform’s algorithm is valuing their content far less than their white counterparts. TikTok, for its part, has run programs to promote Black-owned accounts and businesses on the platform.


Sites like Twitter, though it doesn’t really boast any real kind of content creation suite, have struggled to deal with how its algorithmic smart cropping tool favored some skin tones over others. Of course, other platforms like Facebook have had a much more severe time dealing with explicitly racist content, with multiple reports showing that it routinely failed to beat back hate speech online, and was consistently hesitant to make any fixes to its feed when it thought there would be pushback from conservatives.

Though this is also a case of how far the internet has changed, and how the reliance on algorithms have put creators in a tough spot. Gone are the days when people online made content for the joy of making it. Well, of course it’s easy to say that when, since 2012, Google has allowed any account to start monetizing qualifying content on YouTube. You have big names like Nicki Minaj working to blast her music to every corner of YouTube. Platforms like Twitch, Instagram, and TikTok are just as much a streaming service for the biggest influencers as they are means for folks to share their favorite taco recipe. And all the while, more and more creators have fought tooth and nail against platforms to see a bigger piece of the pie from ad revenue.