Article Source: IMechE

The male-female imbalance in UK engineering is well-known, but figures released in April last year showed the shocking reality.

At 72 engineering-related firms, men were paid an extra 35% or more on average. Professional Engineering analysis found 10 companies with a difference of 43.2% or more. One business had a 62% difference in mean hourly rate – meaning that, for every pound earned by men, women earned only 38p. One year on, has anything changed?

Salary snapshot

Today (4 April) is the publication deadline for updated figures. Of the 72 companies with differences of 35% or more, 13 have not published at the time of writing. One is not required to publish, while three are no longer listed by the government.

Of the remaining companies, 14 have reduced the male-female gap in average pay to less than 35% – meaning 41 of those identified last year still have a gender pay gap of 35% or more. For some the gap has increased, while other companies not included in the original analysis might have slipped into the bracket.

Salary figures released today are based on ‘snapshots’ taken on 5 April 2018, as last year’s reports were based on April 2017 salaries. Because of that, pay gap changes identified today are not necessarily the result of direct action taken after the milestone publication last year. The issue was nonetheless discussed for several years before publication, and companies could have started improvements straight away from 5 April 2017.

The topic’s increasing prominence is reflected in companies’ efforts to improve, says Women’s Engineering Society chief executive officer Elizabeth Donnelly. The society had a “distinct” increase in partners from 42 to 56 in just six months, she tells Professional Engineering.

Shifting the dial

Of the 10 companies that had gaps of 43.2% or more, three have not published new data. Three have improved slightly, while two report bigger gaps now. Two companies – Masco UK Window Group (UKWG) and Schneider Electric’s Eurotherm – have made big improvements, down to 3.6% and 14.9% respectively.

“It is interesting to see that there have been improvements in some companies, and a little disappointing that others haven’t really shifted the dial very much,” says Peter Finegold, the IMechE’s head of education.

After the first figures were published, Finegold said flexible working was “the most vital change” that businesses could make to reduce pay disparity. In online reports accompanying the new figures, both Masco UKWG and Schneider Electric say flexibility helps maintain diversity and gender balance.

“The cultural change needed is going to take time to filter through, but… there is evidence now that having greater diversity leads to greater productivity,” says Finegold.

Flexible hours are good for both men and women and help enable longer, more profitable careers, says Donnelly. “If you can suit their flexible needs for children or other things that require time away from work, they will generally stay in the job for a long time.”

Masculine recruitment

Companies must focus on recruiting and keeping female engineers in technical and professional roles to improve balance and reduce the gender pay gap, says Finegold. Promoting STEM careers in education is also “definitely a step in the right direction”, ensuring people from many different backgrounds feel comfortable in engineering.

Job adverts are frequently quite “masculine”, says Donnelly, potentially dissuading talented women from applying. “We have issues where women will only apply for a role if they fit 100% of the requirements, whereas men might apply if they fit 60%… companies are missing out on really good women who are maybe on 90%.”

The Women’s Engineering Society CEO also stresses the need for visible diversity and women in senior positions. She mentions a recent visit to the opening of a new advanced manufacturing facility, where there were no women on stage. “It was really striking that there were no women on the panel… women would think ‘Well, I don’t want to work here’.”

The Royal Academy of Engineering is keen to support employers to close the gap, says head of diversity and inclusion Bola Fatimilehin. The academy is working with the Wise Campaign and consultancy Verditer to quantify the pay gap, explore its causes and help close it. “A number of engineering employers are collaborating with the academy with the aim of identifying and sharing industry-wide actions that can be applied within organisations and across the whole sector, known to help progress women up organisations,” says Fatimilehin.

To view companies’ gender pay gap data, visit the government website.

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