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AISC Hosts Local Engineering Group for Webinar on Employee Engagement and Gender Equity

Last night, AISC hosted 35 members (and 25 members remotely) of the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois’ Women in Structural Engineering group (SEAOI-WISE) for a networking reception and a webinar on gender equity and employee engagement in the structural engineering profession, presented by the Structural Engineering Engagement and Equity (SE3) Committee of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC).  

Last year, the SE3 committee administered a nationwide survey on employee engagement and gender equity in the profession, for which they received more than 2,100 completed responses from practicing structural engineers. The survey investigated a variety of measures of engagement (satisfaction) and equity regarding career advancement, compensation and work-life balance. This webinar shared the most significant findings of the study, including why 56% of respondents have considered leaving the profession, the prevalence of the gender pay gap and the importance of mentorship.

Study findings indicated respondents are generally satisfied with their careers. While overall career satisfaction was reported to be high, there were a variety of areas where improvement appeared to be needed, including career development, pay and benefits and work-life balance. Additionally, though respondents generally reported being satisfied with their careers, a majority indicated that they had considered leaving the profession at some point. Seven percent of the respondents were people who had already left the structural engineering profession, and they cited many of the same reasons for leaving as those who had considered leaving (poor work-life balance, high stress, low pay) with the addition of poor management/leadership.  

Some survey responses varied significantly by gender. Notable differences included how men and women define career success, why they leave the profession and perceptions of their work environment. Men and women both reported that their top reasons for considering leaving the profession were seeking better work-life balance, less stress and higher pay, but women rated better work-life balance highest among these factors while men rated higher pay as their top reason. A pay gap between women and men was shown to exist at almost every level of employment, most notably at the principal level. And those who take on more caregiving responsibility (regardless of gender) were generally less satisfied with their career advancement, even if they were satisfied with their career overall. Survey results indicated women perceive they are the primary caregivers, increasing with age and reaching a high of 81% as they move into their fifties and beyond. In contrast, men felt they contributed within a consistent range of 34 - 36% of the caregiving. For those reporting that they are responsible for over 50% of the caregiving responsibilities, almost a quarter felt it negatively affected their motivation at work. This loss of motivation was reflected more strongly in the women participants, which correlates with the higher percentage of caregiving and their subsequent lower satisfaction with work-life balance.

SE3 has formulated a list of best practices derived from the findings that can be used to begin the workplace discussion on where improvements in engagement and equity in the profession can be made by employers, managers and staff. These include management training; aligning daily tasks with employee career goals; creating a workplace where all engineers have access to a mentor (internal or external); reducing employee burnout and adopting policies to improve engagement during periods of high workload; performing annual compensation audits to ensure pay equity is achieved; creating a robust, transparent work flexibility program (with input from staff) and empowering employees to use it; and providing comprehensive support to employees with children and dependents.

This recorded webinar will be available for viewing at www.SEAOI.org. For more information on the SE3 project, including the full survey report, visit www.se3project.org.

 


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