12 Jan Professional engineering workplace equality for the 21st Century
Recent studies show the gender pay gap for women in STEM is still significant. BPEQ chairperson Andrew Seccombe asks how the profession will support positive changes.
The engineering profession, much like all STEM fields, suffers from a shortage of skilled and experienced workers. The pandemic has exacerbated this situation; now more than ever, it is crucial to remove barriers to a diverse workforce’s participation.
Professional engineering organisations must build an environment in which the firm’s growth and success link to the development and participation of all its employees. A professional engineer should recognise the importance of a diverse range of human capital attributes in adding value to a successful and positive workplace. A contented workplace increases productivity and produces loyal and happy clients. Additionally, raising the social capital of our profession must be an aim for all professional engineers.
Tackling gender (workplace) inequity in engineering and its causes opens many possibilities to achieve a workforce that will push our profession forward in the years to come. Australia has been fortunate to embed an ‘equal pay for equal work’ law. However, we must be vigilant that this occurs and strive for equal opportunity to achieve pay outcomes no longer dependant on gender perceptions of the past. According to recent research, businesses must take a more significant role in reducing the engrained differences in skills that women gain and develop in the workplace. Engineering employers may provide more support for women returning to the workforce and offer the opportunity to expand workforce participation.
We must ask ourselves, does our organisation provide family-friendly work hours, a positive work-life balance, limitations on contact outside of work hours, appropriate leave structures, and compassionate understanding for situations that can arise unexpectedly?
Does our profession provide on-site facilities fit for a modern workforce, are performance evaluations and bonus income opportunities clearly defined and cater to all employees?
Are there equal opportunities for advancement and further professional training?
Instigating such reforms and policies can assist in providing confidence on returning to the engineering profession after a break of several years. It may also positively affect all employees, especially new employees from diverse backgrounds who wish to enter the engineering profession.
If we as professional engineers do not address the gender inequalities’ head-on, policymakers will address the issue in ways that may not benefit the specific needs of the profession. How will you as a professional engineer tackle gender inequalities in your workplace?