Engineering survey reveals scale of UK gender pay gap

Paul Boughton

The Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) biennial salary survey of workers in sectors including oil, gas, food and drink, energy and pharmaceuticals has revealed the scale of the gender pay gap with women typically earning 25 per cent less by the age of 40.

The survey, which began in the 1980s and based on a sample of over 2,500 IChemE members in the UK and Ireland, revealed median salaries for the chemical engineering profession had grown by nearly six percent (5.7 per cent) since 2012 and by 12 per cent since 2010 to £56,000.

Salaries for people entering the profession, under the age of 25, improved by 5.3 per cent, between 2012 and 2014, to a median salary of £30,000 – an increase of £1,500.

Median pay rates for fully qualified or Chartered Chemical Engineers (MIChemE), continued to grow strongly to £70,000, compared to £40,000 for non-chartered chemical engineers.

However, despite median salary increases for female engineers outstripping their male counterparts – 10.3 per cent versus 7.1 per cent – over the past two years, it is the pay gap between men and women which continues to be the most challenging remuneration issue for the chemical and process industries.

The survey shows that women are achieving median salaries around 28 per cent less than men (£43,000 versus £60,000) over the course of their careers.

The earning potential of women declines significantly between the ages of 30 to 40 years with median salaries of female engineers typically nearly £16,000, or 25 per cent, less than men of a similar age.

IChemE director of policy and communication, Andy Furlong, said: “The chemical engineering profession has remained largely recession-proof during the economic downturn with above average increases in salaries. This positive picture is likely to remain as the demand for engineers increases, especially to power the UK’s economic recovery.

“However, the sector does face skill shortages and many talented people, especially women, choose to overlook what is still perceived to be a male dominated profession. IChemE’s 2014 salary survey suggests there is much more to be done to tackle one of the biggest issues – the gender pay gap.

“To attract and retain all of the best talent, employers need to take another look at how women are supported and rewarded throughout their engineering careers. It’s a difficult and long-standing issue, but without a solution fairness, equality and economic growth will continue to be undermined.”

Last week, IChemE published a 10-point pledge to improve diversity in the chemical engineering profession and gave its support to the Your Life campaign, which aims to increase the number of students, especially women, studying science, technology, engineering and maths subjects by 50 per cent over the next three years.

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