New figures released this month show for the first time, women engineers are outearning men – at least for the first few years of their careers.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Gender Indicators, Australia report, women with engineering and related qualifications had higher starting salaries for their first jobs after graduation, taking home $65,000 in pay. The median salary for male engineering grads was $63,500.
The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) Graduate Outcomes Survey, which contributed data to the ABS report, also showed the only other field where women graduates did not earn less than men was communications, where starting salaries for men and women were equal.
According to Engineers Australia National President and Chair Trish White, this difference in graduate engineers’ salaries reflects the changing nature of engineering, and soft skills such as communication and collaboration are gaining in importance.
“Employers know they need to diversify their workforce to get the creative problem-solving their customers want, and with only 13 per cent working engineers being female [they] are hard to find,” White told create.
“Some companies have a 50 per cent target for recruitment of female graduate engineers, so we are seeing competitive salaries offered.”
The pay gap across all career categories has shrunk from $3600 in 2016, but women working full time still earned about $1100 less in graduate roles than men.
“This demonstrates that beyond subject choice, the gender gap in median graduate salaries persists due to a range of other factors such as occupation, age, experience, personal factors and possible inequalities within workplaces,” the QILT report stated.
The survey also found that while women were far less likely than men to study architecture, building, engineering and related fields, those that did were more likely than men to attain higher levels of education. For example, 39 per cent of women with engineering qualifications had a bachelor’s degree and 11 per cent had a postgraduate degree, compared to men with 17 per cent and 4 per cent, respectively.
However, the data shows that male engineers with postgraduate qualifications outearned women engineers by almost $4500 in 2017.
When asked why the graduate salary bump isn’t reflected at higher levels, White said issues like retention of women engineers and a lack of role models are big reasons.
“Unfortunately women engineers are leaving the profession at greater rates than their male counterparts … It does mean there is a lack of female role models at higher levels. It’s hard to imagine yourself in a senior role if there isn’t anyone there that looks like you. I think that plays into promotion and pay rise negotiations as well,” she said.
“It’s not all a bad story, though, because some talented women engineers are being enticed by high salaries in banking and finance, which goes to show how transferable the skills of engineers are.”