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Edited with permission by Frontier
In March this year the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) revealed that the environmental sector not only had a significant gender pay gap, but it was actually much higher than the national average. The reasons behind this are systemic of deeper problem of gender inequality in the environmental sector, but also science in general.
The pay gap in the environmental sector currently stands at 14.1%, much higher than the national average of 11%. This is predominantly sue to the fact that while there were more women than men in entry level jobs, men took up 77% of the leadership roles. While not unusual in any other occupation today, what is unusual is the other factors that come along with it.
What is striking about the environmental sector is despite the pay gap all employees- male and female included- have an exceptionally high level of job satisfaction. This is unusual in sectors with a high gender pay gap, as it often leaves workers disgruntled. Similarly if women feel like they cannot progress to leadership roles it often has a significant impact on satisfaction. The reasoning behind this could be for a number of factors; one of which is that employability and pay are also very high in the environmental sector. However, it could also be explained in the amount of part time work that is offered.
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Part time work is much more popular among women as it is much more common for women to be care givers alongside a professional career. Therefore if the environmental sector is providing well paid part time positions it is likely to increase their job satisfactions. However, while obviously the provision of these jobs is important, the environmental sector should not take this as good enough. More should be done to increase the amount of women in leadership and higher paid roles.
With this being said, the problem starts long before women become caregivers. Women are less likely to choose a career in STEM to begin with, meaning there is an under representation of women at all levels. This is due to a variety of factors; the leaky pipeline in education, the prejudice women face in a majority male work force and the societal expectations that drive women away from the sciences. The environment is particularly hard hit sector, as even fewer women become engineers or go into technology.
The next question is perhaps the most important; what can be done to fix the gender pay gap in the environmental sector? First the leaky pipeline needs to be addressed. Education programmes should be put in place from a young age that supports women all the way through their scientific career. This could include targeted events towards school age girls, or grants supporting women through university particularly if they are carers.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Eryk
The second and perhaps most important way to fix the gender pay gap is providing more support for women as they progress through their careers. This could include providing childcare, all women short lists for a small number of job roles, or encouraging men to take paternity leave. All of this would contribute to the normalisation of women in managerial roles and reduce the pay gap.
The environmental sector loses out on an enormous amount of creativity, innovation and ideas by marginalising women to lower paid roles. More has to be done in order to support women and provide equality in a sector that claims the moral high ground. The gender pay gap is not just a problem in the private sector, and it’s time to make a change to protect women’s working environment as well as the one they strive to protect.