Today is the deadline for private firms with in excess of 250 employees to declare their gender pay gap.
A BBC analysis this morning shows a median pay gap across all UK firms who have provided data of approximately 10%, with construction having the worst median pay gap of all sectors at approximately 24%.
We undertook our own (unscientific) review of the data. We looked at the NCE 100 2017 top five companies and found an average median pay gap of 23%. We noted a gap of 19% across three of the big structural/civil engineering consultancies (picked at random). Across four major building contractors, the gap was 33%.
There will be people who will look at these figures and shrug them off. Contracting firms are made up significantly of construction site workers, where there is an embedded cultural expectation that you will be working on site as a man, surrounded by men. The NCE100 top firms have a bias towards heavy civil engineering. Of course such a profession would be male dominated, right? The consultancy figures aren’t really so bad, are they? After all, this is a profession which struggles due to the disparity in numbers of women choosing to read Engineering at university (not the profession’s fault, of course!).
Let’s stop the complacency right here. It is ninety years since women in the UK won the right to vote on the same terms as men. In those ninety years, we have challenged many of the pillars of gender inequality – marital rape; lack of access to abortion and birth control; unequal allocation of parental leave. But the battle for gender equality is far from won, and in the gender pay gap data, we have the incontrovertible and troubling proof.
Yes, the reasons for the gender pay disparity are complex. Just paying women more, per hour, is not, in itself the solution (though it would certainly help). So here is a call to arms to the engineering profession. Let’s start unpicking the problem and SOLVING each component part. We need to think about education; aspiration; opportunity; attitude; promotion. Let’s encourage and employ more men at an administrational level; let’s promote part time and flexible working across the work force, particularly for men; let’s go into schools and tell young women exactly why doing an Engineering degree is worthwhile; let’s join organisations devoted to working collaboratively to solve the gender divide (yes, men, you too); let’s go into our own staff appraisals asking to be paid fairly and non-discriminately.
At Engenuiti, our gender pay gap is close to zero, and our intention is to keep it that way. But we still face the problem of receiving applications from predominantly male applicants for engineering roles and from predominantly female applicants for administrative roles. We are trying to counteract that trend, in particular through a focused recruitment strategy and also by offering and encouraging flexible working. Take-up of a flexible or part time working pattern is particularly high amongst our male staff with families. We know we need to keep pushing to do better and better. We want to become an organisation of complete and genuine equality. We invite others across the profession to join us in that commitment.
This should be a watershed moment. With the publishing of this definitive data, there has never been a greater awareness of the problem, nor so great a momentum for change. Let’s not let the opportunity to address such a fundamental societal problem pass us by.
Rachel Sandbrook, Associate Director