The Impact of Human Resource Policies & Practices on the Retention & Advancement of Female Engineers
Dr. Michelle Inness, Nicole Wilson, Dr. Valerie Davidson, Dr. Toni Schmader, Dr. William Hall, Dr. Elizabeth Croft
This report examines practices relating to work-life balance and human resource policies in Canadian organizations that employ engineers and how these practices and policies correlate with tenure and advancement of female engineers.
We surveyed a Human Resources professional in each of 39 companies that employ engineers. The organizations represent six engineering sectors (Consulting Services, Utilities, Communications, Transportation, Government, Primary and Resource Industries, Construction and Manufacturing and High Technology).
We asked them to report on the following:
- Human resources policies
- Career outcomes
- Their perception of employee’s attitudes to various policies
- Their perception of the company’s ‘diversity performance culture’
Finding 1. Companies offer a range of “work-life balance” benefits – the average number of benefits reported per company was 5 and the range was between 1 and 8.
The majority of companies reported offering flexible work arrangements. A minority of companies offered paid maternity and parental leaves, though these numbers are above recent reports on national average (in 2008, approximately 19.4% of employed, employment insurance eligible new mothers received employer top-ups). Few companies reported offering paid family care benefits.
Finding 2. Human resources policies and practices varied across organizations. The average number reported per company was 4.6 and the range was between 1 and 10.
The majority of companies reported offering training, career planning and mentorship to both men and women. a minority of companies had HR programs focused on recruitment, retention and advancement of female engineers. very few companies reported having a policy of promoting women to senior positions, all else equal.
Finding 3: Women are underrepresented at all levels, but the percentage of women decreases markedly with increasing levels of seniority.
The percentage of women in managerial roles was related to having favourable promotion policies for women (r=.49, p<.05). We asked specifically, all else equal, would you promote a woman to management? these findings suggest that such policies may be important to ensure that more women occupy leadership positions.
The percentage of women in managerial roles was also related to the percentage of non-managerial female engineers present in the company. companies with more female engineers at the non-managerial level were also likely to have more female engineers in front-line management (r=.39, p<.05), middle management (r=.54, p<.01), and board of directors (r=.38, p<.05).
Finding 4. On average men had longer tenure with their current company than women and this difference is statistically significant (t(26)=3.81, p<.001).
The tenure of female engineers was related to organizations offering specific “work-life balance” benefits: 1. On-site child care (r=.39, p<.05), 2. Paid maternity leave (r=.39, p<.05) and 3. Paid parental leave (r=.49, p<.01).
The tenure of female engineers was also related to the company’s ‘gender diversity performance’ culture (r=.40, p<.05). A company with a high gender diversity performance culture is one that conducts ongoing measurement of diversity indicators and has a strategic goal to improve gender diversity.
Finding 5: Men’s pay at all levels was higher than women’s, but the difference was statistically significant at the level of senior management (t(5)=-2.58, p<.05).
The simple average* salary per year for men was approximately $85k at the non-managerial level, $107 at the front-lines management level, and $151k at the senior management level. Average salary per year for women was approximately $80k at the non-managerial level, $101 at the front-lines management level, and $137k at the senior management level.
The salary comparison for men and women in the board of directors is presented in this graph, but there are too few cases of women members of the board for meaningful comparison.
The salary of female engineers at the non-managerial level is related to the tenure of female engineers in the organization (r=.47, p<.05).