Average salaries for scientists across Australia have grown in the past year, but issues of gender pay gap, discrimination and sexual harassment persist for women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors, according to an annual national survey.
The 2019 Professional Scientists Employment & Remuneration Report released today by Professional Scientists Australia and Science & Technology Australia shows that base salaries paid to professional scientists increased by an average 2 per cent over the past 12 months, slightly out-pacing inflation.
There has been a small improvement in reducing the gender pay gap compared with last year’s survey results, but women in STEM are still paid 13.8 per cent less than their male colleagues (down from 14.1 per cent last year).
STA Chief Executive Kylie Walker said while the results are an encouraging step in the right direction, addressing this pay inequity still warrants urgent attention.
“We’re pleased that average wages for STEM professionals have grown modestly, but we must ensure that wage increases are delivered equitably across the workforce so that women do not continue to lag behind their male counterparts,” Ms Walker said.
“The gender pay gap is historic and persistent. There is still work to do to address structural and systemic inequities, and we must take bold action if we are to see meaningful change in the future.”
The survey also found that discrimination and sexual harassment remain longstanding issues for female scientists and technologists.
Almost 2 in 5 female respondents said they had experienced gender bias or discrimination in the previous three years. One in 5 women said they had experienced sexual harassment at least once in their careers, compared to only one in 20 men.
Ms Walker said the alarming results highlighted the urgent need to improve workplace safety and protection for STEM professionals in Australia.
“It is important that those at the front line of creating and applying new knowledge enjoy safe, fair and inclusive working conditions,” she said.
“If we are to attract bright, creative and committed people to the sector, we must ensure a diverse and sustainable workforce so that a career in STEM remains an attractive and viable proposition.
“STA will continue to advocate for robust, strategic and long-term investment to build Australia’s prosperity through science and technology, to underpin Australia’s future economic growth, population health and environmental resilience,” Ms Walker concluded.
The Professional Scientists Employment & Remuneration Report is Australia’s most comprehensive snapshot of science and technology pay and working conditions.
Report key findings:
- Base salaries paid to professional scientists grew by an average 2.0% over the last 12 months.
- 1 per cent of respondents reported that they had not received any increase over the previous 12 months. 30.5 per cent of respondents working in the private sector reported receiving no pay increase in the previous 12 months, compared to 27.7 per cent for the Public sector and 25.6 per cent in Education.
- Average annual base salaries and total packages were highest in the Physics, Engineering
- and Geology fields. Average annual salary movements were greatest in the Food science/technology, Botany and Physics fields with increases of 3.0, 2.8 and 2.5 per cent respectively. Movements were lowest in Marine science and Materials/metallurgy with movements of 0.7 and 1.0 per cent respectively.
Satisfaction with remuneration
- 9 per cent of scientists surveyed reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their current level of remuneration – up on last year’s figure of 42.5 per cent but still below previous levels.
- Levels of dissatisfaction remained at a concerning level with 35.2 per cent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their current level, marginally down from 35.5 per cent in 2018.
- The highest levels of satisfaction with remuneration were found in the Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics fields.
- 6 per cent of respondents perceived their remuneration as falling behind market
- rates, up slightly on 43.8 per cent last year.
- 2 per cent said their remuneration did not reflect their level of responsibility.
- 0 per cent of respondents had changed jobs in the past year and, of those, 40.9 per cent had moved for a pay increase, 47.0 per cent had moved for greater job security and 50.0 per cent had moved for greater professional development opportunities or to get away from an unhealthy workplace culture.
- 5 per cent of respondents reported that they were considering leaving their current. Respondents reported the factors that would alter their intention were a pay increase (61.3 per cent), greater professional development opportunities (49.8 per cent) and better management (44.3 per cent)
Value of post‐graduate qualifications
- The average base salaries by highest qualification ranged from $125,697 for those with a PhD, through to $114,004 for those with a Masters, $107,893 for those with a Graduate diploma and $96,871 for those with a Bachelor degree.
- The completion of post-graduate qualifications – Graduate Diploma, Masters and PhD – delivered average earnings premiums (total package figures) of 14.4, 20.6 and 29.7 per cent respectively over holding a Bachelor degree alone.
- Respondents worked on average 43.6 hours per week including 5.4 hours of overtime. Only 10.5 per cent received monetary payment in recognition of their additional hours, a significant issue in view of the 11.4 per cent of respondents reporting that they were expected to work longer hours in the past year compared to the previous one. The average number of hours worked per week was greatest for those working in Teaching or training and Management roles.
- Respondents working in the Hospital sector, Local government and the APS were most frequently compensated for additional hours worked, while 81.3 per cent of those engaged in the Education sector reported receiving no compensation for additional hours worked.
De-professionalisation, professional standards and cost‐cutting
- The decline in the number of scientists in decision‐maker roles was seen as a concern by 26.9 per cent of respondents.
- 8 and 26.2 per cent of respondents respectively said reduced adherence to professional standards and reduced service quality were evident in their organisation over the last 12 months.
- 2 per cent of respondents reported that cost-cutting was an issue in their organisation.
- Of particular concern was the finding that 42.8 per cent noted insufficient skills development in their workplace over the previous 12 months. Of those that had changed jobs in the past year, 50.0 per cent had moved for further professional development opportunities.
Work priorities, morale and fatigue
- Job security ranked highest in respondents’ work priorities, followed by remuneration and work/life balance. 50.0 per cent of respondents said that staff morale had declined in their organisation over the past year and 57.7 reported that worker fatigue had increased.
Gender pay gap
- Female respondents earned on average 86.2 per cent of male respondents’ earnings – a gender pay gap of 13.8 per cent. 38.2 per cent of female respondents said they had experienced bias or discrimination on the basis of gender in the previous three years
- This gender pay gap can be attributed to a combination of factors including concentration of female respondents in less senior roles, in roles requiring fewer years of experience and fewer females in the science workforce beyond age 40.
Diversity and discrimination
- Respondents reported 3.9 per cent of employers had formal policies in place to promote diversity and 67.2 per cent had policies to deal with discrimination. 25.7 per cent of respondents said their employer did not have strategies in place to actually implement policies relating to diversity and discrimination.