Graduate Water Environmental 20

20 August 2018 Kate Palmer

In an industry-leading move, WSP Opus has closed a 7.5% pay gap for people in similar roles within the organisation.

Ian Blair, Managing Director of WSP Opus, describes the move as a no brainer.

“It’s 2018 and we should be rewarding people fairly for doing the same work at the same level of performance in like-for-like roles. To do otherwise just isn’t right.”

Blair says unequal pay was unpalatable to him on a personal as well as professional level.

“I have two sons and two daughters and cannot imagine living in a world – or being part of a leadership team of an organisation – where I have to tell my daughters that they get paid less than their brothers because of their gender. That’s unacceptable.”

This milestone achievement sets WSP Opus apart in the industry, says Blair, demonstrating that the company openly values its people and their expertise regardless of gender.

“It’s something our whole organisation can be proud of and I hope the rest of our industry shortly follows suit. WSP Opus is one of the founding partners of The Diversity Agenda and I’m really heartened by the changes this initiative will deliver, particularly around gender balance.”    

Methodology

Earlier in the year Blair instigated a programme of work to understand and address any pay gaps within WSP Opus. Early analysis showed the pay gap within WSP Opus is approximately 20% between female and male employees.

Drilling down, comparisons between female and male employees in similar roles showed the pay gap was approximately 7.5% - and this was the area that WSP Opus focused on.

Blair says that where a pay gap existed - and the cause of the pay gap was not readily apparent, such as part-time hours – they worked with the manager to identify the reasons for this. In the majority of cases there was a reasonable explanation for this and could be attributed to causal factors.

“We also found cases where a portion of the gap was not explainable and this portion of the gap was deemed unreasonable. Where an unreasonable gap was identified we have corrected the gap through a remuneration adjustment.”

All up 60 employees – 3% of the organisation - were identified in this analysis as being underpaid; 55 females and 5 males.

Where next?

For Blair, closing the pay gap is only the first step in moving WSP Opus towards a more gender diverse and inclusive organisation in an industry where women are the minority.

“We are not a diverse industry and we’re not a diverse organisation. We’re representative of the engineering industry; 12% of the members of Engineering NZ are women and 9% are technical leaders, so it’s not surprising that our frontline workforce is only 26% female.”

As such, WSP Opus’ leadership team has established a Diversity & Inclusion Plan to Action to focus on initiatives to support opportunities for women, Māori and Pasifka, and appointed an Advisory Group to drive the initiatives forward.

A different future

Graduate electrical engineer Cara Berghan says that while gender inequality does exist within the engineering industry, there are companies clearly looking to change this.

“I’ve encountered sexism when applying for jobs – comments on my appearance and questioning my abilities, that type of thing – and so did a number of my female friends from uni. But I did end up applying for roles with companies that were committed to gender equality,” she says. 

Cara says that working for an organisation like WSP Opus that is strongly focused on diversity is empowering.  

“The concept that I’m not equal because I’m female – that doesn’t make any sense to me. It doesn’t change the quality of the technical advice or design solutions I work on and it certainly doesn’t make me any less passionate about what I do.