CALLS are being made for more training to be offered to females after "scandalous" gender pay gaps between men and women were revealed.
Businesses employing more than 250 staff are required to submit details of their pay inequalities to the UK government, with the worst offenders proving to be those in engineering and manufacturing sectors.
In some Highland companies women are being paid one-third less than their male counterparts and make up less than five per cent of the highest paid staff.
Muir of Ord-based Ross-shire Engineering has the widest gap of 31 per cent, meaning the median hourly rate for women is just 69p for every pound earned by men.
Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) also fared badly, with a 14 per cent gap, while the gap at Inverness-based Orion Engineering Services Ltd was 11.6 per cent.
An Orion spokesman said: "We acknowledge that we have a pay gap and we’re committed to tackling it.
"We have a range of initiatives under way or being developed that we believe will contribute to addressing the gender pay gap."
Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford called for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to be targeted to girls at school.
"Some companies in the Highlands are making enormous efforts but the issue seems to be in manufacturing roles where there still seems to be a very low representation of women," he said.
"We need to do everything possible to make sure girls have opportunities to study STEM subjects at an early age so they have the same opportunities in these careers."
The gap at leisure and culture organisation High Life Highland is 4.3 per cent, though there was equality within Highland Home Carers – where 85 per cent of employees are female. There was also equality within Craigton Foods, which runs franchises of the McDonald’s restaurant chain in the Highlands.
MSP Kate Forbes, member for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: "These figures demonstrate that the gender pay gap varies across different sectors.
"It is incumbent on all organisations to train, develop and equip all employees and to ensure that there are ample opportunities for promotion."
Highland Council’s figures are published every two years, with the 2017 audit showing a gap of 7.2 per cent.
Inverness MP Drew Hendry said: "Women aren’t earning less because they are less qualified, willing or able than their male counterparts but because of deep rooted cultural issues in our workplaces.
"The publishing of these figures is a step in the right direction but they must be backed up by a serious commitment from businesses."