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Recruiters Can Help to Combat the UK’s Gender Pay Gap in Engineering and Here’s How

Debates on pay among most professions and services frequently make headlines in a world that has seen a boost in hybrid working since the pandemic. However, there is a distinct silence surrounding the gender pay gap.

 There is a divide between the base rate salaries of men and women in the UK and there is a long way to go to bridge this gap but recruiting partners can help. It’s unlikely we will see a major overhaul in gender pay gaps overnight, and it’s likely to be something that changes slowly, but recruiters can make small changes throughout the hiring process that help combat the obvious pay differences between men and women in the UK.

A Staggering Divide

Women now outnumber men at the undergraduate level in STEM subjects. But in the physical sciences, the pattern is different: according to UCAS, 23% of students starting physics degrees in 2016 were women, while for engineering, the figure was only 17%.

However, these numbers have seen a significant increase since then. As reported in March 2022 by Engineering UK:

  • Women make up 16.5% of all engineers, compared to 10.5% reported in 2010. (Including registered engineers and technicians i.e., CEng, IEng, EngTech, etc)
  • This represents a 6-percentage point increase in the proportion of women in the engineering workforce.
  • The actual number of women working in engineering roles also increased from 562,000 in 2010 to 936,000 in 2021.
  • There was an overall expansion of the engineering workforce from 5.3 million in 2010 to 5.6 million in 2021.
  • The increase in number of women in engineering roles continued to rise even when the total number of people working in engineering fell in 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Diversity is paramount for innovation, where 85% of corporate diversity and talent leaders agreed that “A diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation” as found in a global survey by the Women's Engineering Society (WES). So what actions can be taken to solve the issue of women still being under represented in STEM?

Bridging the Affordability Gap

There is a lot of talent out there but hiring women in engineering / technical roles is still regularly seen as being a boost to diversity. However, if they are not being paid fairly, hiring a woman should not be seen as a diversity initiative. If a woman is being hired because she is as talented as her male counterparts, she should be paid the same as them.

By paying women less in some cases, they can be seen as an affordable hire, despite possessing the same skills and experience as their male counterparts. Viewing female hires in this way widens the pay gap, but it’s something that recruiters and HR professionals can help combat. Women need to be seen as equal hires, not an affordable or money-saving option.

Another way to counteract this psyche is to push for full transparency about development opportunities, attractive projects, and stretch assignments while encouraging women who are already in the workforce to put themselves forward for new opportunities. Career progression should be an integral part of a performance review.

The Importance of Talking About Pay

Pay transparency is a topic of raging debate in the recruitment sector. And it is not just spoiled-for-choice candidates putting pressure on employers to disclose salaries upfront. Governments and lawmakers are doing it too. Despite employees seeking improved working conditions, flexibility, and benefits post covid, pay transparency is the final bastion of equitable working. Broadcasting exactly what everyone earns still feels inconceivable. “The European Commission’s most recent data shows that the gender pay gap in the EU is 14.1% and only diminishes at a snail’s pace,” says Christian Wigand, a spokesperson from the European Commission.

On International Women’s Day, the UK government announced a pilot scheme in which participating employers have to list salary details on job adverts and stop asking about salary history during the recruitment process. And Germany is a step ahead, with a law in place since 2017 entitling employees of companies with over 200 staff to know what their colleagues are earning.

In the US, there is a lot of open communication about pay and salaries. This transparency is important, as it lets everyone know where they stand regarding earnings when compared to others in similar tech roles. Candidates and employers in the US are much more willing to talk about money, which shifts the power dynamics. There is no taboo surrounding talking about money, and people don’t shy away from asking for more if they feel it’s deserved.

Imposed salary transparency could help to dramatically reduce the gender pay gap, according to research by HEC Paris Business School. Researchers found that, over two decades, radical transparency, whereby salaries of all the participating 100,000 academics were posted online for universal access, reduced the gender pay gap by up to 50%.

This open communication could help to bridge the gender pay gap in the UK too, by highlighting just how many men out-earn women in similar engineering or high-tech roles/sectors. If candidates are more comfortable talking about pay, they are more likely to speak out if they are being paid unfairly and more likely to ask for more money when starting a new job/role. Avoiding talking about pay only strengthens the stigma. Recruitment and human resource professionals can help by being open, honest, and happy to talk about salaries and benefit arrangements.

Yet many employers are still offering candidates “£competitive”. Is making the switch to pay transparency a good idea? What are the risks and benefits if you decide to take the plunge?

Focus on Salary Expectations

One thing recruitment partners and HR teams can do to help combat the UK’s gender pay gap is to ask a candidate what their salary expectations are. Whereas many professionals ask about their current salary, it’s important to shift attention onto expectations and market rate. This places value on the position that needs to be filled, rather than whether it’s being filled by a man or woman. Regardless of who is filling the position, the value should remain the same. It should not be valued lower simply because a woman is applying. When talking about salary, the focus should always be on the expertise, skills, and experience of the person in question, the competencies they possess not their gender.

To reduce the gender pay gap and for women to be paid in line with men, experience and desired salary need to be taken into account. Women who are equally experienced as their male counterparts should not be viewed as being affordable or diverse hires.

Redline Group’s mission is to enable high-technology companies to build world-class teams through knowledge-led recruitment. For more information from a trusted partner with over four decades of experience, don’t hesitate to contact us on 01582 450054 or email or view our latest job opportunities by clicking here.


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