The results of the biennial AIChE Salary Survey are in. This year, we asked AIChE members about the impact of the pandemic on their employment and salaries. We found that over a quarter of respondents did not receive a salary increase (or experienced a salary decrease) in 2020 due to COVID-19.
As expected, age and experience are important indicators of salary. This year, as in previous years, we found that gender is also an important indicator of salary. In nearly every age group evaluated, males out-earn females by a small margin. The survey does not reveal why this gap exists. It might occur because men gravitate toward larger companies — which we’ve found tend to pay higher salaries — or because men tend to work in higher-paying industries, such as petrochemicals or petroleum refining. Or, more nebulous factors may be at play, such as inherent biases or negotiating differences.
2021 is the first year we asked about race in the salary survey. We found that the majority of respondents (78%) identified as White/Caucasian, while 9% identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, and only 2% identified as Black/African-American. Our results are comparable to another study conducted by the National Science Foundation (https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/sere/2018), which determined that in 2018, only 4% of chemical engineering degrees were earned by people who identify as Black/African-American. These percentages are not reflective of the racial/ethnic split of the nation. According to a 2019 Census Bureau estimate, Black/African-American people make up 13.4% of the U.S. population.
This significant shortcoming points to the importance of initiatives like the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI) — a national program that provides scholarships to students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). FOSSI is a core initiative of the AIChE Foundation and its All for Good: Engineering for Inclusion priority, which is driving industry-wide improvement in equity, diversity, and inclusion. The All for Good campaign also supports the Safe Zone LGBTQ+ Ally Training Workshops, which promote a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals in STEM careers. Facilitating these conversations is the first step toward equity in our industry, which is just one piece of a larger puzzle of inclusion and equity in society.
The kickoff of Pride Month in early June helps focus our attention on these efforts. The month-long celebration promotes the dignity, equality, and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals. The Update news feature on pp. 4–6 was inspired in part by Pride Month. I was surprised to learn from this story that the LGBTQ+ community is often overlooked in discussions of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. However, upon further reflection, I realized that I am guilty of such an oversight. While planning for the Salary Survey, the CEP team often receives requests from our readers to ask more questions related to diversity. In these planning meetings, we have never considered asking about sexual orientation, although there is likely some interesting data to be collected that might add to the conversation about equity and inclusion in our profession — something to consider for future surveys.
I highly encourage you to explore the results of the 2021 AIChE Salary Survey. Flip to page 27 to get started and find additional tables and data online at www.aiche.org/cep.
Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief
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