By Peter Griffin 08/10/2015

The pay gap between men and women has grown to 11.8 per cent, two per cent up on a year ago according to Statistics New Zealand’s New Zealand Income Survey

The median weekly wage overall is $621 before tax, up $26 on a year ago. For men, the average hourly wage rose 4.6 pert cent to $24.07. But for women it rose just 2.4 per cent to $21.23.

That’s “unacceptable” according to Minister for Women, Louise Upston. She wants her ministry to do some analysis to see what’s behind it.

The survey publication coincides with a report from the Institute of Professional Engineers (IPENZ) Women in the Engineering Workplace, which gives some interesting insights into how women are faring in what could be considered to be a particularly blokey industry.

Not surprisingly, the survey of 15 engineering organisations shows women remain “greatly under-represented at all levels in the engineering profession”.

Those 15 organisations empty 19,600 people, 32 per cent of whom are female. Within that workforce, 4,378 are engineers, only 16 per cent of whom are women. Of new hires into those 15 companies in the last year, 25 per cent were women, above the 18 per cent proportion of engineering graduates who are women.

At senior management, technical lead and board level in these organisations, women engineers represent less than 10 per cent of positions (17 per cent of board positions are occupied by women including non-engineers).

The report is refreshingly frank about the issues women in the engineering industry face and which led to 30 per cent of them leaving within five to ten years of graduating:

“…the expectation to work long hours, a lack of networks, role models, and transparency around pay and career progression put women off remaining in the profession.”

When it comes to the pay gap, like many professions, things start off fairly equal, but the gap between men and women starts to grow as they reach their mid thirties. In the 45 – 49 year age bracket, the pay gap amounts to $32,500.

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Overall, the survey puts the gender pay gap in engineering at five per cent, significantly less than the national average. Still, the under-representation of women in the industry and the pay gap are of serious concern to IPENZ. It’s good to see the organisation commissioning this research and making recommendations as to how the situation can be improved.

Those recommendations include:

  • Have well-supported diversity policies
  • Support younger, less experienced employees and

    encourage mentoring

  • Make meaningful, satisfying part-time positions available
  • Encourage managers to work part-time or flexibly to show all roles can be carried out in this way
  • Investigate the limitations on employees who take up flexibility to make sure career breaks or working flexibly aren’t seen as career-limiting
  • Undertake pay equity audits and address any issues raised
  • Better support female engineers to retain their confidence and competence so they return to the workplace following career breaks
  • Encourage and support female engineers to seek boards and management roles and IPENZ Fellowship.


The pay gap in science

What’s the situation in the science sector?

This report from the Association for Women in the Sciences is a bit dated (2011 with data sets from 2006), but shows similar trends to the IPENZ report.

Take income distribution for PhD graduates:
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0 Responses to “Engineers and the pay gap”

  • Would you mind clarifying this statistic? It seems a bit ambiguous to me:
    “30 per cent of them leaving within five to ten years of graduating”

    Does this mean 30% left within 10 years of graduating, or that 30% left after at least 5 years but also less than 10 years after graduating?

  • Hi Mark, I’m not sure if this quote from the report answers your question exactly: “We’re concerned that within five to ten years or graduating, nearly 30 per cent of female engineers leave the profession”. Surely there are women who drop out earlier – I suspect they are being counted too in that 30 per cent but that the bulk at least do a stint lasting five years before moving on.

  • Thanks Peter. Unfortunately although the statistic is referenced with “(Ministry of Women’s Affairs and IPENZ, 2012)” it doesn’t precisely identify its source. My best guess is that it’s referring to this document:

    That research involved a survey of engineers who graduated from the University of Canterbury or the University of Auckland in 2000 or 2005. As far as I could see it’s not stated clearly in the report, but from the year of publication I’m assuming the survey was conducted in 2012. So 7 or 12 years after graduation for the participants.

    On page 15 it states that “at the time of the survey 71 percent of women compared with 82 percent of men, were still working in engineering”, so I assume this is where the “nearly 30 per cent” statistic has come from.

  • “For men, the average hourly wage rose 4.6 pert cent to $24.07. But for women it rose just 2.4 per cent to $21.23.”
    The difference of percentage change in one year strikes me as quite extraordinary. My guess would be that it was driven simply by much greater increases in sectors with predominantly male employees. Could the building boom in Christchurch have something to do with that?