Women entrepreneurs in the Old North State make 19 percent less than men entrepreneurs doing the same work, says a new report released by FreshBooks.

That’s slightly higher than the national average of 17 percent, according to the firm’s second annual Women in the Independent Workforce Report issued this month.

“We feel they highlight a lot of ingrained perceptions that people may have about women who choose to launch their own businesses,” Dave Cosgrave, director of Industry Insights and Analytics at FreshBooks and the lead researcher on our report, told WRAL TechWire. “We feel small business ecosystems are generally supportive of women – but there are some lingering misconceptions people have about women entrepreneurs’ abilities that can make it hard for women entrepreneurs to get ahead.”

As for reasons to the continued pay gap, Cosgrove said they don’t have all the answers – yet.

Source: PitchBooks

“There are many potential reasons,” he said. “One thing we made certain is that we’re comparing ‘apples to apples’ in calculating the disparity. By focusing exclusively on knowledge work, and by controlling for size/age of business and gender based industry preferences, we’ve done all we can to ensure that when we say women take in 17 percent less than men, it’s for the same work.

“That said, we also know that a subset of self-employed women chose independent work so they can work less, for family, health or other reasons. So there are definitely still some unknowns.”

While the report notes several perks for women striking out on their own, they still face a lot of challenges, including gender discrimination.

One in three women said they chose to become self-employed due to experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace. Another one in four said they feel they still have to charge less than men entrepreneurs to attract and retain clients, the report notes.

However, it’s not all gloomy.

While self-employment and small business ownership have long been dominated by men who outnumber women by a 2:1 margin, change appears on the horizon.

Source: PitchBooks

Data suggests that two in five aspiring entrepreneurs today in America are women.

“We anticipate 10 to 12 million women could join the ranks of the self-employed in the next two years, narrowing the gap between the number of women entrepreneurs and men entrepreneurs in America,” said Cosgrove.

To address some of the challenges — including closing the pay gap —  Cosgrove said women entrepreneurs need to get comfortable charging what they’re worth.

There is also a need for their clients to recognize their own biases.

“If you’re working with a woman entrepreneur, do you find yourself questioning her expertise or skills in a way you wouldn’t if she were a man?

“In addition, are you paying her the same rate you typically pay men doing the same work? Those are good questions to ask yourself, and we can only level the playing field for women entrepreneurs if we treat everyone equitably,” Cosgrove said.