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Gender pay gap: Architectural big-hitter among first to reveal figures

Aecom aecom offices ©hufton+crow 013
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Global giant AECOM, which employs more than 100 ARB-registered architects, is one of the first companies to reveal its gender pay gap under new mandatory reporting rules

According to data recently posted on the government’s dedicated website, the company pays women 21.9 per cent less per hour than men based on the median of its staff salaries – the standard way of comparing payroll between firms.

The mean figure, however, suggests a slightly smaller gap: 21.5 per cent.

Under legislation enacted last year, businesses in England, Scotland or Wales employing more than 250 people must report their gender pay gap by 4 April 2018.

The pay gap is calculated on a ‘snapshot date’ of 5 April 2017, and is expressed as the percentage difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women.

Reporting both median and mean measurements can shed light on the root causes of the pay gap. The median figure is often taken as the more accurate measure, as the mean can be skewed by the distribution of pay among employees. A larger mean pay gap suggests that a company’s top salaried roles are occupied by more men than women. 

Under the new rules, businesses are also obliged to set out how men and women are paid at all levels by dividing their payroll into quartiles. AECOM, which is providing technical design and engineering services for this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, reported that its top earners comprise 85 per cent men and only 15 per cent women.

At the other end of the scale, 64 per cent of the company’s lowest earners were men, compared with 36 per cent of women.

In terms of bonuses, women received 50 per cent less cash than men (median figure) with just less than a fifth of women (19 per cent) getting any additional monies. In contrast, 22 per cent of men were handed bonuses.

The company separately reported that its 6,874-strong workforce was 72 per cent male.

Speaking in the foreword to its 2017 gender pay gap report, AECOM’s chief executive for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, Lara Poloni, admitted the company had a ‘long way to go’ to create a ‘truly diverse and inclusive workforce’ but said: ‘[We] must continue to press for gender parity.

’The diversity agenda is not just a numbers game or a tick box exercise; at its heart it is cultural change, whereby we tackle long-held unconscious bias, set the bar high in terms of accountability and seek behaviour change right through the organisation. We also recognise that diversity needs inclusion in order to thrive.

‘[It is] important to not only have the right mix of voices within an organisation, but also to create an inclusive culture, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued. Ultimately we are seeking diversity of thought because we know this will create a high-performing organisation.

‘I am proud of the progress we have already made towards gender equality in our business, including de-biasing the recruitment processes to ensure a more diverse range of candidates, flexible working, mentoring programmes and our newly launched return to work scheme.’

She added: ‘We know there is no silver bullet, but by seeking meaningful change right through the employee journey from recruitment to development to promotion, we know we have the best chance of success.’

Few other companies working in the built environment have so far disclosed their gender pay gap figures, although Ove Arup and Partners posted its data last month.

Its data shows that women were paid 16.7 per cent less per hour than men (median figure) and that only 22.4 per cent of the companies highest earners (top quartile) were female.

Although 84.6 per cent of women received bonuses – compared to 87.7 per cent of men – they received almost a third less (30.4 per cent on the median scale).

A company having a gender pay gap is not illegal, although the principle of equal pay has been enshrined in law since 1970. It is unlawful to pay people unequally because they are male or female.

However, a company that pays men and women of equal standing the same wage may still have a gender pay gap if its senior, well-paid roles are mostly occupied by men.

The AJ’s annual Women in Architecture survey has consistently revealed women are paid less than men. The most recent survey, published in February, polled 1,500 men and women working in architecture and asked them about pay, discrimination and work/life balance.

Wia survey graphs 20182

Wia survey graphs 20182

A pay gap was in evidence at all levels, but was particularly pronounced higher up, with female partners earning £70,000 on average compared to their male counterparts’ £120,000 salary.

The AJ survey figures indicate pay inequality is a problem for the profession. Possible reasons for this include women having primary responsibility for caring for family, leading them to take up part-time work with fewer opportunities for progression. More than half of women surveyed claimed they had experienced some type of discrimination in the workplace during the previous 12 months.

Wia survey graphs 20186

Wia survey graphs 20186

Some 9,000 companies are expected to report their pay gap by 4 April, with companies such as easyJet making headlines with pay gaps of over 40 per cent. The Office for National Statistics puts the national median pay gap at 9.1 per cent.

Although reporting the gender pay gap is only mandatory for larger companies, RIBA president Ben Derbyshire has been leading the call for practices who don’t meet the threshold to also reveal their figures.

‘[Gender pay gap reporting] will provide an important benchmark to track progress more rigorously,’ he said. ‘I recommend that practices with fewer than 250 staff opt to publish the data voluntarily.

‘There is no place for discrimination in our profession. Architecture should be a rewarding career for talented people regardless of their gender or family commitments. I am determined to play my part in driving change and to support the RIBA’s ongoing measures to eradicate inequality.’

Derbyshire has confirmed that his own practice, HTA Design, which employs 153 people, will be voluntarily reporting its pay gap.

With women architects making up just 26 per cent of the profession, the AJ’s seven-year women in architecture campaign has consistently highlighted the challenges women face in pursuing a career in architecture. The AJ and sister title The Architectural Review established the Women in Architecture Partnership Programme four years ago.

To view a list of all practices’ reported gender pay gap data, click here

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