Gender pay gap lessens but ‘concentrated effort’ needed from profession

Research published on 28 November by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAA) in a new report,'Closing the engineering gender pay gap', indicates that the gender pay gap is smaller in the engineering profession than the UK employee average.

The mean (10.8 %) and median (11.4 %) pay gap for engineers in the sample analysed is around two-thirds the national average, the RAE says. The Royal Academy of Engineering added: “Although the gap is less than feared, the report finds that closing it will take concerted effort within the engineering profession. One well-recognised issue contributing to the gender pay gap in engineering is the lack of women going into the profession, and while attempts have been made to address this, progress is disappointingly slow.”

The report recommends actions that ‘go beyond addressing this initial recruitment challenge to close the gender pay gap’ through addressing the retention and progression of women to more senior and higher paid roles. The actions it recommends ‘as most effective’ include implementing transparent pay structures and grades, reviewing promotion criteria, and introducing flexible working options for senior roles

To compile what it says is ‘the first report of its kind for the engineering profession’, the Academy commissioned WISE to analyse the pay data of nearly 42,000 engineers working in the UK, to approximate the gender pay gap for the engineering profession. This analysis, with data voluntarily provided by 25 engineering organisations of different sizes and from different sectors, excludes non-engineering roles, to help identify issues and challenges specific to the profession. The RAE notes that this approach ‘differs from the mandatory gender pay gap reporting to government, which does not identify the professions of individuals in an organisation’.

The report confirms that underrepresentation of women in senior roles – rather than unequal pay – is ‘the single largest cause of the gender pay gap for engineers’. The factors that most contributed to pay variance for engineers in the sample included career level (40%), type of employer (12%), age (6%), and the annual revenue of the employer (5%). Just 9% of engineers in the top career grade in the sample were female, and women accounted for only 8% of those in the upper pay quartile.

Jonathan Lyle CB, FREng, chair of the Academy’s ‘Closing the gender pay gap’ Steering Group, said: “Reducing both gender and race inequality is key to addressing the damaging shortage of engineering skills in the UK economy. While we are making some modest progress in attracting more girls and women into engineering, our research shows there remains much to be done to achieve gender equality in engineering careers.”

Helen Wollaston, CEO of WISE, added: “This isn’t really about pay, and it isn’t really about women. It’s about good business. Our research found that a credible action plan to address the underlying causes of the gender pay gap helps recruit the best people, and engages and motivates employees, while giving a competitive edge when bidding for contracts from public sector clients. The recommendations are relevant to engineering employers of all sizes, whether or not they have to publish a gender pay gap report.”