The article opens with the line: “The topic of money always seems to stir fierce debate”. It’s a fact that’s been true for centuries.
The median pay for a female engineer is £17,500 less than that of her male counterparts.
Knowing about each other’s pay and how much money you can expect to earn in certain jobs is an obsession that almost all of us share. Thankfully, information regarding pay is readily available.
For the engineering community, salary surveys that reveal pay scales across the entire career lifetime are published on an increasingly frequent basis.
For instance, the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) recently revealed in its 2015 salary survey that chemical engineering salaries are “holding steady” – though have dropped 1% from £56,000 in 2013 to £55,500 in 2014.
There could be myriad reasons for the £500 fall in pay – low oil prices and economic uncertainty are the most likely, according to IChemE director of policy Andy Furlong.
However, the IChemE report reveals a far bigger discrepancy – the gender pay gap within engineering.
The report suggests that over a career lifetime, the median pay for a female engineer will be £17,500 less than that of her male counterparts.
Again, there could be myriad reasons why women get paid less. However, if the job being done is exactly the same, those reasons are all wrong.
So what’s the solution?
Fortunately, the government is now forcing large companies with more than 250 employees to disclose information regarding gender pay gaps.
According to Prime Minister David Cameron, the move will “cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up”.
Will the move actually benefit those females already within the engineering community, or those looking to become engineers in the future, though?
Of course it’s possible, even probable, but the damage, particularly in the case of the next generation of engineers, could already have been done.
Numbers don’t lie
Currently, only 6% of engineers in the UK are female. Clearly, the way engineering is presented at the grass roots level needs addressing, but so does the inequality in pay - especially if skills gaps are to be bridged.
Unfortunately, though, the skills shortage cannot be alleviated with a simple fix such as pay equality.
It could, however, be a step in the right direction.
Surely if you want to begin to turn the tide on the crippling skills shortage and convince more people to become engineers, you have to make sure you pay them well and pay them fairly – all of them.
Let’s face it: why would anyone take such a high-profile job if they knew they were going to be grossly underpaid for it?