Blackbook Executive

Gender pay gap narrows and even flips in one category, but long way to go

Graduate women engineers are earning more than men as the infrastructure boom expands.

The Graduate Outcomes Survey shows in 2017 women engineers, in their first year of work after leaving university, earned an average of $65,000 a year, compared to $63,500 for men.

And the overall pay gap between men and women who’ve just left university narrowed to $1100 or 1.9 per cent in 2017, from 6.4 per cent in 2016.

The demand for engineers is high as governments spend up on roads, rail and services. And, with women accounting for only 20 per cent of engineering graduates and business now required by law to report on gender-balance, companies are having to offer more to attract women.


Trainee engineer, Jessica Scata​ from Swinburne University, is doing an engineering internship with Melbourne Water. Last week she won the Jacobs Engineering Consulting Award as part of the Top 100 Graduate Employers 2018 magazine – inside today’s edition of The Australian Financial Review – in conjunction with GradConnection, an online jobs portal.

“I’m getting paid to do something I love, so I didn’t really worry about the money,” Ms Scata said. “But all salaries should be based on merit.”

“It was a bit concerning, going into engineering, it’s male dominated. Would women would feel intimidated? But now I’m in the industry I feel everyone’s a bit accepting. My attitude on pay is we should all have equal pay opportunity and be paid for all the hard work you do.”

HR director at engineers AECOM Helen Fraser said the fact some women engineers were earning more than men did not surprise her.

“There is a shortage of technical talent for engineers. We are all fighting for the same group of people,” Ms Fraser said.

“It’s not the requirement to report, it’s the desire to attract the talent. Because there is a shortage. There are more grads who have had multiple job offers – they have choice.”

Dan Headford from GradConnection said shifts in society on equality were also being reflected in the trend.

“As companies become more socially aware they understand that the gender pay gap is a societal issue. They want employees who will stay in the long run so they need to be more society aware,” he said.

Men are earning more than women in most other graduate job categories but, as shown by the overall narrowing gap, women’s salaries are beginning to catch up.


In science and maths-related jobs women graduates earned starting salaries of $56,900 in 2017, that’s 3.5 per cent less than men, although it’s a lot better than the 10 per cent pay gap in 2016.

First-year women lawyers earned an average $58,000 which was 7.9 per cent less than their male colleagues. Although that was better than the 8.8 per cent pay gap in 2016.

The narrowing gender-pay gap across all sectors came as unemployment fell to a five year low late last year of 5.4 per cent.

Although it’s good news for new hires, a joint report from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in 2016 said the pay gap widens as time passes and women take on family roles.

And the difference widens as salaries start to climb – from less than 1.3 per cent for people in the lowest group of earners, to 7.7 per cent for the top decile.

The director of the WGEA, Libby Lyons, said it was great that some employers were now bringing more rigour in terms of equal pay for people being hired from university.

“Data shows that pay gaps begin from the time women and men first enter the paid workforce. That is why it is important for employers to set equitable starting salaries for all employees. Starting salaries are the first ‘hot spot’ for pay gaps,” she said.

Despite the attractions of engineering salaries for women The Top 100 Graduate Employers 2018 magazine shows accountants and management consultants are the jobs most in demand among people leaving university.

Consultants PwC topped this year’s list, which is drawn from 94,000 graduates registered with GradConnection, sponsors of the magazine.

PwC has moved up the list from the No.2 slot last year. Consultants KPMG took out the second slot from most desirable employer, with Deloitte and IBM in third and fourth position.

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