Professionals Australia today launched its Women in Engineering report to mark Equal Pay Day.
The survey found strong evidence of a gender pay gap with female engineers’ reported average earnings 89 per cent of their male counterparts. The pay differential arose out of the concentration of women in less senior roles and greater numbers of males in senior management and executive positions.
The survey also found significant attrition from the female engineering workforce around age 30 with 13.1 per cent dropping out between the 20-29 and 30-39 age groups, compared with a drop of only 1.4 per cent for the male workforce at the same time. The attrition persisted with only 30 per cent of female engineer respondents aged over 40 compared to 42.6 per cent of their male counterparts. Only 14.0 per cent of female respondents indicated that they had worked as an engineer for over 20 years compared with 32.1 per cent of male respondents.
CEO Chris Walton said the gender pay gap and attrition of the female workforce beyond age 30 in engineering confirmed the need for engineering firms to be doing a lot more to attract and retain their engineering talent. “The attrition of so many women engineers from the workforce is a significant waste of expertise, talent and investment and we just can’t afford to lose them.”
“There is no doubt that ensuring a strong and sustainable engineering capability into the future underpins Australia’s productivity and innovation capability. Addressing the underrepresentation of women in engineering is a workforce development strategy that will play a major part in ensuring this capability in the longer-term.
“While the current focus on encouraging greater numbers of women and girls to undertake STEM subjects at secondary school and engineering courses at university is vital to improving the participation of women in engineering, the problem is that this approach belies the complexity of the factors contributing to the underrepresentation of women in engineering and is at best only half the story.
“Addressing the attrition of women from the engineering workforce is the vital second half of the equation. Removing the obstacles, barriers and biases which operate as disincentives for women to remain in engineering is just as fundamental as increasing the participation of women and girls in engineering education. Only then will the pay gap and attrition issues be addressed,” he said.
“The contribution that a diverse workforce makes to organisational effectiveness is well-documented, and improving the level of participation and retention for female engineers remains one of the most significant challenges in achieving a diverse and sustainable engineering workforce. Women represent one of the largest underrepresented pools of talent in engineering and organisations will need to devote greater attention to addressing the workplace practices that create disadvantage for women if they wish to attract and retain their top talent.
“Addressing the progression, attrition and retention issues for women highlighted in this report should be a national priority. Ensuring a strong and sustainable workforce and fully realising our innovation and productivity potential will depend on it.”
The Women in Engineering: Realising Productivity and Innovation through Diversity report is available here.