Chris Seekings reports on the IEMA State of the Profession Survey 2022, shedding light on aspects from the gender pay gap to ethnic diversity
More than 1,000 IEMA members responded to the 2022 State of the Profession Survey, providing a comprehensive snapshot of salaries, career paths and demographics within the environment and sustainability profession.
The findings suggest that the profession is diversifying and becoming more woman-dominated, with salaries rising and the gender pay gap narrowing. IEMA members tend to be better paid than non-members in similar roles, and the majority agree that membership has been positive for their careers.
However, the findings also suggest that few IEMA members have had a real pay rise when taking the cost of living into account, and a significant number feel that progression within the profession is unfair.
Full-time gross salaries among IEMA members averaged £47,570 this year – up 7% from £44,439 in 2018 – while average part-time salaries stood at £37,147. This is considerably higher than the UK’s mean full-time salary of £31,447, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Salaries varied by membership level, with Fellows who work full time earning an average of £79,369, compared with full members on £58,656, Practitioners on £49,614, Affiliates on £45,898, Associates on £40,989, Students on £34,497 and Graduates on £30,547.
IEMA salaries across sectors were higher than salaries nationally, but there was variation between role types, with chief executives or senior officials typically paid less than non-members in these roles, and engineering professionals and production managers paid more.
Members working in business and industry earned most, with an average gross salary of £52,456 – up 10.5% from £47,404 in 2018. This was followed by members working in the built environment and in energy and utilities, who can expect average gross salaries of £51,178 and £51,443, respectively.
Those with a CEnv earned an average of £56,837 – significantly more than members who aren’t CEnv registered. The salary uplift for this group was most pronounced in the 21–30 age group, but could be seen across all ages.
The top 5% of IEMA Fellows (95th percentile) had an average gross annual salary of £115,000. The top 25% had an average gross salary of £94,000, and the top 75% £54,182.
For full members: Top 5%: £93,000, top 25%: £67,500, top 75%: £44,950.
For Practitioners: Top 5%: £75,000, top 25%: £54,000, top 75%: £35,000.
For Associates: Top 5%: £71,000, top 25%: £47,000, top 75%: £30,000.
For Graduates: Top 5%: £50,000, top 25%: £34,500, top 75%: £25,000.
For Affiliates: Top 5%: £75,000, top 25%: £49,000, top 75%: £30,000.
For Students: Top 5%: £73,000, top 25%: £45,000, top 75%: £22,000.
The gender pay gap
Although more still needs to be done to ensure equal pay between the genders, it was encouraging to find that the gender pay gap has narrowed significantly this year. The average gross hourly salary was £25.86 for men (including trans men) and £23.60 for women (including trans women). The overall gender pay gap was therefore 8.75%, down from 14.1% in 2018.
Women earned an average of £43,410, compared to £49,591 for men. However, this was largely accounted for by differences in the age profiles of the genders, with women often being younger. Of survey respondents, 35% of women were aged 21–30, compared with just 18% of men. Conversely, 23% of men were aged 51–60, compared to just 12% of women, and 9% of men were aged 61–70, compared with only 2% of women.
Women were also more likely to work part time, with 19% doing so, compared to 7% of men. The average full-time salary for members was £44,858 for women and £50,216 for men. The average full-time salaries for full members, meanwhile, were £57,901 for women and £58,591 for men, indicating a far narrower gap.
Pay rises and promotions
This year’s survey also found that 72% of IEMA members received a pay rise in the last year, up from 64% in 2017. However, only 13% received a real pay rise when taking the cost of living into account.
Looking at pay rises within sectors, only 4% of those working in public sector organisations received an increase that kept pace with the cost of living, compared to 18% of those in consultancy roles. Of those working in the built environment, 22% were given an above-inflation pay rise, compared to 4% of those at NGOs.
Although real pay rises were uncommon, 19% of respondents had been promoted during the past year, compared with 13% in 2017. Of those working in business and industry, 14% had been promoted, compared with 26% of those in consultancy organisations. The findings also show that 27% of members working in the built environment sector had been promoted, compared to 13% of those doing charity and voluntary work.
A diversifying profession
For a profession that has been criticised for not doing enough to promote ethnic and social diversity, it was also interesting to find that significant demographic changes may be taking place.
While 94% of survey respondents aged 41+ described themselves as white, this was true of only 84% of those aged 21–30 and 85% of those aged 31–40. Of postgraduate students, only 44% described themselves as white.
Furthermore, 27% of the members surveyed were 21–30-year-olds, making it the most common age group. This was followed by 31–40-year-olds on 26%, 41–50-year-olds on 23%, 51–60-year-olds on 17%, and 5% aged 61–70.
At the same time, 52% of members had only been members for one to five years, and 80% of members from minority ethnic backgrounds had joined within the past five years, suggesting that the profession is diversifying.
Of respondents, 53% identified as being women and 44% as men. Women were more likely to report that they were sustainability and environmental specialists, on 61%, compared with 42% of men.
Although this may suggest that the profession is becoming more woman-dominated, the findings may also be because women were more likely to be graduate members and to have been in the profession for one to five years, while men were more likely to be Fellows.
Barriers to progression
There was mixed news regarding perceptions of barriers to progression. While 40% of the survey respondents felt that progression in sustainability and environmental roles was fair, 25% disagreed. There was a significant gender divide, with 62% of men reporting fairness in progression, compared to 35% of women. Furthermore, 25% of women reported experiencing gender discrimination, versus 2% of men; this peaked at 33% for those aged 31–40.
A quarter of members from an ethnic minority experienced racial discrimination as a barrier to their career progression, while 11% also experienced class-based discrimination. Overall, 54% of members from an ethnic minority background had experienced “many barriers” in developing their careers, compared to 32% of white members. This difference was even more stark for those aged 21–30 (62% versus 31%), and for black men (63%).
The findings also show that 18–20-year-olds were most likely to report age discrimination, on 40%, compared to 13% overall. Those aged under 30 were particularly likely to report barriers due to lack of training opportunities, lack of careers advice and too much competition for positions (22%).
Of those living with a disability, 22% had faced workplace bullying, compared with 9% overall; 6% had experienced disability or health discrimination.
Unclear progression pathways was the key barrier experienced by IEMA members in their careers, but a lack of confidence was also key, particularly among women.
Although this year’s survey had plenty of positive findings, the results show that there is much to do to break down barriers to progression, improve diversity and inclusion, and further narrow the gender pay gap. IEMA members can learn more about the Institute’s Diverse Sustainability Initiative at diversesustainability.net, while a newly launched Green Careers Hub (greencareershub.com/green-skills) will help members with career progression. IEMA members should also look out for new training courses, and reach out if they are ever in need of further support.