Gender equity continues to be a major challenge for Australia’s engineering sector

Monday 12 July 2023

A new report released by Professionals Australia shows that gender equity continues to be the most significant challenge for Australia’s engineering sector, with women engineers still facing major barriers to career progression and experiencing gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment to a much greater extent than their male counterparts.

The Professional Engineers Employment and Remuneration Report 2022/23 surveyed over 1,400 engineers across Australia on matters ranging from pay, conditions, experiences at work and mental health.

Professionals Australia’s CEO Jill McCabe said that unfortunately the report reinforced previous research findings about the discrimination and harassment faced by women working in Australia’s engineering sector.

“Every worker has a legal right to a safe workplace free from any form of discrimination or harassment.

“Yet, over half of female engineers reported gender-based discrimination in the last three years compared to 6.8 per cent of men.

“22 per cent of women in engineering roles also experienced sexual harassment compared to 2.4 per cent of men and consequently, over 34 per cent of women cited discrimination as a major factor for wanting to leave engineering.

Ms McCabe said that huge investments are being made in infrastructure, knowledge-based industries, and the transition to clean energy but there is a predicted shortage of 200,000 engineers by 2040, which means governments and employers need to do more to grow our engineering workforce, including attracting and retaining more women in the profession.

“While we must continue to support more women to study engineering, unless we fundamentally change our engineering workplace cultures and practices, women will not choose to enter or stay in the profession.

“More recognition and career advancement opportunities for female engineers are required, along with flexible working arrangements and changes in workplace culture. Ms McCabe said the report also found that engineers across Australia were experiencing high workloads, long hours and workplace stress, which was adversely impacting their mental health and wellbeing.

“Over 45 per cent of engineers reported workplace stress as the number one factor negatively impacting their mental health, while over 35 per cent cited poor management and over 25 per cent reported unreasonable workloads as affecting their mental well- being.

Ms McCabe said that engineering employers in both the private and public sectors are legally required to provide workplaces free from discrimination and harassment and working conditions that are not only physically but psychologically safe.

''Australia’s engineering sector will play a critical role in transforming our energy sector and driving much needed infrastructure and innovation.

“However, this will only be possible if we have a strong and sustainable engineering workforce that is supported by equitable, inclusive and safe workplaces across the sector.”

Media contact: Darren Rodrigo – 0414 783 405

Key Statistics

Average engineering wage increase – 2.3 per cent (2.5 per cent private sector) (2.2 per cent public sector)

Average hours per week - 42.6 hours, while those employed in teaching or training roles reported working an average of 52.7 hours per week.

Key workplace issues impacting mental health

  •  Workplace stress - 45 per cent
  • Poor management – 35.8 per cent
  • Unreasonable workloads - 32 per cent

Overtime compensation - 40 per cent of engineers said they received no additional compensation for overtime hours worked.

Gender-based discrimination – over half of female engineers experienced gender-based discrimination compared to 6.8 per cent of men in the last three years.

Sexual harassment - 22 per cent of women in engineering roles have also experienced sexual harassment compared with just 2.4 per cent of men.

Critical issues cited by women for wanting to leave the engineering profession

  •  Lack of recognition - 43 per cent
  • Poor workplace culture - 34.8 per cent
  • Discrimination - 34.8 per cent