Optics and Photonics Salaries up Most in China, Gender Disparity Still Wide, Job Satisfaction High, Finds SPIE Survey

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Median salary levels in China have increased the most this year, reflecting declines in euro, yen, and dollar earnings, found the fifth annual Optics and Photonics Global Salary Report. Conducted by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, the survey found continuing trends in high job satisfaction throughout the field as well as a continuing wide disparity between median salaries for women and men.

SPIE 2015 Optics and Photonics Salary Survey Report

Salary trends around the world in optics and photonics include rising levels in China, continued gender disparity, and high job satisfaction.

Visibility is invaluable, particularly in the early stages of one’s career.

Salaries are rising highest in China and median salaries for women continue to lag those of men by around 40% with the largest gap in late career, according to findings in the latest Optics and Photonics Global Salary Report from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

The report, released last month, also found that workers in all sectors of the industry report high levels of satisfaction with their jobs. For-profit respondents rate team success as their priority, while academic and government respondents place highest value on scientific discovery.

Results from the 2015 survey are based on nearly 6,000 validated responses from 100 countries. Women make up 16% of the respondents to the survey, roughly mirroring their representation in SPIE membership and at SPIE meetings.

Among key findings:

  • The median salary reported by 2015 survey respondents is US$64,000, down from last year’s US$73,000, primarily reflecting large declines of the euro and yen against the dollar. Salary levels vary widely, primarily driven by country income level and employer type.
  • Salaries paid in Chinese yuan have risen by 33% since 2012 versus 5% increases in euro, dollar, and yen earnings.
  • 55% of workers in lower-income Asian countries expect a raise of 10% or greater in 2015. Only 10% of higher-income Europeans and 11% of North Americans expect raises of that size.
  • The highest-paid discipline continues to be aerospace, with a median income of US$105,433.
  • Workers in industry report higher salaries than those in government or academia.
  • Median salaries are 41% higher overall for men than for women, with the largest gap occurring late-career. 49% of women feel that they are paid fairly, versus 57% of men. Wage gaps between women and men persist in most areas, with some exceptions such as academic deans or provosts.
  • Survey respondents are highly satisfied with their jobs overall: 85% enjoy their work, 86% find their work meaningful, and 90% respect the work of their peers.
  • 37% of workers in higher-income Asian countries work 50 or more hours per week. 28% of Romanian workers report working 55 or more hours per week, the largest percentage of any country.

“It is encouraging to see so many anticipate salary jumps in 2015; I hope these expectations come to pass and that we see better remuneration for the scientists, engineers, and manufacturing professionals who are changing our world. They are making a real difference, and should be rewarded accordingly. While the continuing trend of disparity between median salaries for women and men is discouraging, SPIE is heartened by the continued growth of the percentage of women among our membership and conference participants,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “SPIE is committed to providing the crucial exposure and networking opportunities that conferences offer for the many brilliant women in our community. Visibility is invaluable, particularly in the early stages of one’s career.”

Arthurs commended other efforts to help remedy the disparity, such as new European Commission Digital Agenda (DG Connect) rules about female representation in their events.

Visibility is key, concurred SPIE Past President María Yzuel of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. “Serving on program organizing committees and giving talks in conferences are very important in developing one's CV," she said. "Role models are important for female students to see that there are high-level women in these fields."

Arthurs, a veteran of both academia and industry, echoed the sense of job satisfaction reflected by the survey, and encouraged optics and photonics professionals to share that with students, teachers, and parents they meet.

“Members of our community know the rewards of a career that enables one to participate in unlocking the secrets of the brain through work in optogenetics, and work towards make life better for those who struggle with Alzheimers, epilepsy, or the effects of stroke,” he said. “They know the satisfaction of discovering a touch-sensitive technology that allows unsighted people to use cellphones, or of designing smart sensors into bridge infrastructure to warn in advance of a weakened section.”

Finding solutions to the future’s challenges will require attracting the best and brightest of the next generation to careers in optics and photonics, Arthurs said.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014. http://www.spie.org

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