I get geeky pleasure playing with an Excel spreadsheet and can spend hours resorting and calculating the data contained in them. You can imagine the thrill, then, when my colleague Dave turned over the raw data from Food Processing's annual salary survey. With 1,094 food professionals providing responses spread across 58 columns, there were 63,452 cells that potentially contained data to be analyzed and massaged.
I spent as much time as deadlines would allow with the salary spreadsheet before filing the results, which are presented in the magazine's July edition. Time ran out before I could see how the boys and girls stacked up in terms of pay and job satisfaction. Gender gaps exist in every field, of course, but the salary survey was a chance to see just how far you've come, baby, in food & bev.
Almost 28 percent of respondents were women, so there was a respectable base to compare with the men. Women are few and far between in plant engineering, maintenance and operations. Feminization is occurring in quality assurance and R&D/product development, and the survey bore that out: the majority of female respondents fit in those two job categories. In fact, they've almost achieved parity with the boys, if the salary respondents are any indication.
The existence of a wage gap won't surprise anyone: men involved in quality assurance averaged $85,465 in annual compensation, compared to $72,477 for the women. But could other factors help explain the disparity?
With an average age of 44 years, 7 months, the women were only 5 months younger than the men. Job satisfaction also was a virtual dead heat: based on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 indicating extreme dissatisfaction with the job and 5 extreme satisfaction, women gave a 3.4 average rating to their jobs, vs. 3.5 for the men.
However, other factors undoubtedly played a role in the income spread. Male QA workers reported an average of 18.6 years of experience in the food & beverage industry, an additional 26 months over female QA professionals (16.4 years). Apparently, 17 years marks the coming-of-age point for food professionals.
The men also were more likely to hold supervisory positions: on average, they supervised 10.9 people, compared to 6.9 for the women. Education levels favored the men: 78 percent held a bachelor's degree or higher, including two doctorates. Among women, 68 percent were college grads, and they were less likely to have advanced beyond the baccalaureate level. None were PhDs.
A sheepskin's only a calling card, though, and women in R&D are better educated but still underpaid. They had nine doctorates among them, two more than the men, and they were more likely to have advanced degrees. Nonetheless, their pay slips were relatively petite: women averaged $95,801 vs. men at $121,051. On the other hand, women in R&D gave a 3.56 rating to job satisfaction, compared to 3.44 for the men. Men supervised more people (3.79 vs. 3.18) and had more industry experience (20.1 vs. 16.2 years) than their distaff counterparts. They also worked for larger companies, with an average staff of 2,675, compared to 2,497-person staffs for the women.
Regional differences may be a factor in the pay gap. When it comes to food processing, the Great Lakes region is the place to be, and for R&D and QA, the male sample skewed to the Great Lakes. Women in QA were more likely to be employed in the South, while R&D women were over-represented in the Southwest.