The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) recently re-evaluated five years of its annual salary survey data and found pay equity issues continue to create a barrier to inclusion in the engineering and geoscience industries.
However, there are strategies that can be implemented to level the playing field.
In a session called Show Me The Money!, Mohamed El Daly, P.Eng, director, outreach and product services with APEGA, shared the findings as part of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers first annual virtual conference held earlier this month.
“The first finding is that the proportion of females in the engineering and geoscience profession hasn’t significantly changed over the past five years,” said El Daly.
“At face value it holds steady at 20 per cent. If we look deeper into these numbers we notice there are more women coming into the profession than leaving the profession, however, because it is predominantly male the percentage is not going as quickly as we would like. As more programs and efforts are done in the equity, diversity and inclusion space we hope to see this number growing. This is a goal that APEGA has, we call it 30 by 30: 30 per cent female professionals by the year 2030.”
The analysis also found the proportion of females in senior levels has not significantly changed in five years.
“It holds on average at 10 per cent at senior levels…which is senior management and C-suite and above,” El Daly explained. “In order to increase females at the senior level more females are required at entry levels and qualified levels, more efforts are required to be done to increase levels of promotion of females across the organization and retention as well.”
Entry level pay is not significantly differentiated by gender, he added. Both male and female incumbents with one to five years of experience are paid relatively the same. The inequity becomes more evident at the senior level.
“The pay gap between male and females at the qualified and senior levels are statistically significant,” El Daly said. “In 2018 the average female base salary was 88.4 per cent of male base salary. There can be different reasons for that but contextual factors that were cited by Mercer, our consultant, were level or grade and the type of job that’s being conducted, location of position in the company and the organization that you are working as part of.”
The gap begins to widen at the five- to 10-year-mark and grows from there.
“One assumption that is made here is that this is the time where a number of female professionals would take parental leave,” El Daly said. “As they go on parental leave and come back, the years of experience are not counted towards their total experience while their male counterparts are adding years of experience. As companies continue to evaluate pay and correlated to years of experience not necessarily competencies, this gap will continue to widen.”
He provided some action items for leaders and organizations.
“The research provided us with a benchmark and identified key drivers to gender representation and provided us with some recommendations regarding the most important levers for increasing female representation including hiring, promotion and retention,” he said. “It also highlighted which bottlenecks women face depending on where in their career journey they are. Those bottlenecks are mainly professional level promotion and access to profit and loss roles at the executive level.”
Anyone in a leadership position can help women on their staff by examining who holds certain roles and providing women access to those roles, he said.
“How many profit and loss roles are led by women?” he asked. “Those roles have higher pay than those that are not responsible for a budget and accordingly there is additional pay attached to it.”
Leaders can also participate in unconscious bias training and encourage their staff to do the same. Unconscious bias does not only come into play during the hiring process, it also plays a role in daily interactions, El Daly pointed out.
“Another component leaders can play a big role in is to facilitate or support a transition program or ‘returnship’ when they have staff going on a parental leave or general leave,” said El Daly. “APEGA has published a managing transitions document and you can find it on APEGA’s EDI website. It helps individuals going on leave — men, women and others — to plan for their leave accordingly and what considerations to take into account prior to going on the leave, during the leave, as they prepare to come back and upon return.”
Organizations are also encouraged to review job postings for overtly masculine language and structure.
“What does your job posting say about your company and the culture in your company? Is it inviting and welcoming a diverse pool of people to apply to your company?” El Daly asked.
He also suggested organizations conduct regular salary surveys.
“This will help you to ensure that there aren’t any pay inequities and to help you reduce chances of pay compression,” he said. “Adopt competency-based pay instead of experience-based pay. Instead of purely counting years of experience since graduation, evaluate which competencies each job requires and accordingly pay on competencies versus merely years of experience.”
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