New data released by Consult Australia on diversity levels in built environment consulting firms has shown that industry initiatives have led to improvements at Board level, although much work still remains to be done.

The Association’s 2013 diversity survey — representing more than 19,500 professionals — found over 15 per cent of the industry’s Board positions are now filled with women.

The base is still low, however, with female firm employees at less than 29 per cent.

Consult Australia has been pushing for a commitment to diversity through its Champions of Change Group. A charter was signed by leading figures in the consulting sector earlier this year aimed at bringing about change within at the upper echelons of industry.

The Charter has committed the signatories to actively advancing equality across their businesses and to act as advocates for the consulting industry.

Hyder managing director for Australasia and chair of the Champions of Change group Greg Steele said firms had shown commitment to long-term goals to improve diversity, but warns that change will not be achieved overnight.

“The improvements we’ve seen since Consult Australia’s first diversity survey in 2011 are good,” he said. “However, improvements are not universal. In some areas there’s been little, to no progress—but this should not deter employers from pursuing activities to promote diversity and inclusion.”

Consult Australia’s survey also identifies differences in pay, turnover, age at seniority levels and other factors to indicate where further work should be directed.

“In a somewhat surprising outcome, the gender pay gap is most stark in the corporate and support services stream which is, at the lower ranks, a female-dominated area,” Steele said. “This challenges presumptions about causes for gender pay gaps and requires close examination.”

Consult Australia has used the data to create its report, Workforce Diversity Industry Snapshot 2013, which provides industry leaders with a basis for and framework to take action.

“I am pleased that the Consult Australia Champions of Change group—comprised of 13 CEOs from some of Australia’s largest built environment consultancy firms—has accepted the challenge of responding to all 10 recommendations made in the report,” said Steele. “Long-term and systemic improvements in the data will only become entrenched when business leaders take personal responsibility for creating change.”

The data follows hot on the heels of another report by the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) which shows in earning terms there is still significant disparity between men and women, with the median salary for male engineers 36 per cent higher than females.