Electronic Design

Glass Ceiling Shows Sign Of Cracking

Salaries for female engineers are on the rise, as are the feelings of satisfaction that women have about their jobs, despite the fact that the percentage of women in engineering continues to lag behind other professions. Over half (54%) of the female engineers responding to this year's survey feel adequately compensated for their work. In comparison, 61% of male respondents share the same sentiment. But it's up significantly from just 44% a year ago. And the pay raises that women in engineering expect to see in 2004 are greater than those anticipated by their male teammates. In addition, bonuses and stock options make up a higher percentage of women's total compensation packages than men's.

The average female engineer saw her base salary grow $3225 to $74,027 in 2004, or about 5%—more than double the annual inflation rate. That may seem like a pittance compared to certain other tech-related industries. By contrast, though, the typical male EE's salary in 2004 went down $1100 over the same period. Total compensation (including bonuses, stock options, and other sources of income) was $82,868 for women and $93,104 for men.

A number of similarities exist among the men and women who took part in this year's survey. For instance, members of both groups have worked at their present companies for about the same amount of time (averaging nine to 11 years) and are employed in comparably sized companies (roughly 1200 employees). Both camps share similar problems and concerns at work and have common views when it comes to factors that affect job satisfaction. Both sexes spent a nearly identical average number of hours at the office (42 to 43 hours weekly). Men, though, typically put in about three hours more each week working away from the office—either at home, at other job locations, or on call.

So what factors contribute to the gender compensation gap in engineering? Circumstantial factors could explain some of the inequities, like differences in educational opportunities, corporate cultures, lifestyle, or family-related choices. One thing is for certain, though. Our survey shows that proportionately fewer women are in positions of power at the highest levels of engineering firms. That clearly is one reason why women fall lower than men on the salary ladder.

Although women in engineering are about five years younger in age on average than men, men have about 50% more engineering work experience under their belts than women (22 years for men versus 15 years for women). That means women are either getting into the game later and/or getting out sooner. Men also seem to land in companies with higher gross annual revenues. Our survey shows that these organizations on average pay higher engineering salaries.

Despite the compensation differences, women in engineering are actually more likely to stick it out with their current employers than men (35% of women said they couldn't envision changing jobs in the foreseeable future, while only 28% of men were willing to take that stance). And men are much more likely than women to pursue opportunities that appear on the Help Wanted grapevine. For example, 29% of men said they would follow up on an interesting new job they read about or heard about, compared to only 18% of women who felt the same way.

Finally, when asked to rate various factors they would consider if thinking about changing jobs, women placed significantly more value on corporate attributes like advancement potential, family-friendliness, recognition and appreciation for their work, opportunities for professional development and training, and flexible work schedules. HR managers at engineering firms should certainly scrutinize those issues as they seek to recruit the industry's top female talent.

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