Engineering’s Dirty Little Secret… Data Shows That Women Experience 6.5x Less Stable Wages Than Male Counterparts

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  • Author: Lillian Pierson, P.E.
  • Date: 21 Aug 2014

America is the “land of the free and home of the brave”! Equal rights for all, no? Isn’t that the message that media puts out? Aren’t these the messages we’ve all been told about the good old US of A?

thumbnail image: Engineering’s Dirty Little Secret… Data Shows That Women Experience 6.5x Less Stable Wages Than Male Counterparts

Well, if you take a random sampling of nations around the world and do an honest appraisal, what you will find is that America is relatively fair. Compared to less developed nations, American women are treated very well and equal opportunity is quite prevalent. Discrimination does occur, but it’s muted compared to what’s happening in most developing nations.

While all of that might be true, this line of reasoning sounds a lot like a justification or excuse; An attempt to pass and cover something that doesn’t smell right. Although America has historically been a champion for equal rights and civil liberties, the rest of the world is starting to sense that all may not be what it seems.

Gender-based pay disparities in the US clearly demonstrate that American women are significantly discriminated against due to their gender. Looking into a few wage statistics that were recently published by the US Department of Labor, let’s consider the wages of American men and women that work in engineering. The statistics are based on weekly salary rates for full-time employment only. Due to the way this data is segmented and reported by the US Department of Labor, it’s certain that we’re comparing apples to apples. The results are alarming.

Gender-based pay disparities in the US clearly demonstrate that American women are significantly discriminated against due to their gender.

Women Earn Smaller Wages – That’s Not Breaking News


From the data shown above you can see that, as far as wage rates, the three most gender unbiased engineering fields are marine and naval engineering, environmental engineering, and petroleum engineering (in order from fairest to less fair). The three engineering fields with the largest gender-based pay gaps are mechanical engineering, mining engineering, and computer hardware engineering (in order from less unfair to more unfair).

The most alarming statistic generated from this analysis shows that a female computer hardware engineer in America will, on average, earn 27% less money than her male counterpart for the same job. As appalling as that fact is, things get worse…

The Wage Instability Disparity between Men and Women is Especially Appalling


The gender-based inequality in wage stability is by far the most alarming thing about the statistics generated in this investigation. Wage instability here refers to the net change in reported  income between consequtive years.  Looking at the same engineering fields discussed above we find that, along with earning 27% less, female hardware engineers experience 3.6x more wage instability than their male counterparts. The mining engineering field is even worse! Female mining engineers earn wage rates that are 6.5x less stable than those of male mining engineer counterparts. Across the board, female engineers experience far more wage instability then male engineers. Environmental engineering is the fairest of all fields, and even there, females in environmental engineering still experience 1.5x more wage instability than their male counter parts.

As startling as these statistics may be, they’re what the US Department of Labor is reporting. Are these injustices simply a result of the good old boy club mentality? Or are these fields still struggling to catch on to the notion of equal civil rights for every man, woman, and child? If it’s the former, then that’s illegal – and why isn’t the American justice system doing something about it? If it’s the latter, well – the civil rights movement happened 50 years ago now. They’ve had 50 years to catch on! If they haven’t done so yet, maybe they need a little external encouragement.

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