Manufacturers this week hotly disputed claims of widespread pay inequalities between women and men within industry.
The charges are made in a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission. It accuses employers of being ‘shockingly complacent’ over gender pay gaps.
The EOC survey finds that across all sectors, women’s average annual earnings are 26% below those of men. Manufacturing has a worse record than either the public or service sectors of taking action to curb these inequalities. Less than a third of manufacturers said they monitored women and men’s pay.
But Alistair Hatchett, editor of IDS Report, published by pay analysts Incomes Data Services, said the pay gap between men and women in manufacturing is largely due to differences in the type of work they do.
‘In manufacturing, highly skilled engineers are predominantly male, while women often work in less skilled areas such as television assembly lines and the lower paid areas of manufacturing such as the textiles industry,’ Hatchett said. ‘It is less true that women are paid less for doing the same job.’
The number of women in graduate-level, and therefore more highly paid, engineering positions within manufacturing remains relatively low.
Mike Coulson, recruitment manager for Airbus, said the company recently took on 270 graduate engineers. He said less than 10% of applicants had been women. But he denied any of the women selected would be paid less than men for doing the same job. ‘The whole point of having pay scales is that we don’t discriminate against people on their gender, only in terms of their experience and skills.’
The research methods used to compile the report consisted of telephone interviews with human resource executives to find out their personal opinions. Case studies of selected companies were then conducted.
Sue Fowler, employment affairs advisor at GKN, disputed that men were being paid more than women. ‘Any woman engineer will be paid on the same basis as men, and I would be highly surprised if women working on production lines side by side with men would be paid less, because the unions simply would not allow it,’ she said.