Is there room for more women in Oil & Gas?

For hundreds of years, women have fought for the right to have equal rights and opportunities in the workplace. Yet, gender discrimination is still a hot topic on today’s news. In this month’s blog, we pose the question: Is there room for women in the Oil and Gas industry?

A recent study by the World Petroleum Council and the Boston Consulting Group suggests not. The study shows only one-fifth of Oil and Gas employees are women. This begets another question: Is this due to discrimination and are there opportunities to be more diverse?

We can be better at diversity

Is there a legitimate reason why women represent just 22% of employees in oil and gas companies compared to 38% of the potential workforce in oil-producing nations? Upon closer examination, we found that the gender disparity decreases to 17% in middle management when it comes to Oil and Gas company leadership. In North America and Europe, women are in leadership in less than 2% of oil businesses.

As a woman working in the industry, I’m concerned about young girls who believe that they have a low probability of becoming a future leader or decision-maker in the Oil and Gas industry. These stats enhance the doubt and self-criticism women often experience when working in male-dominated industries.

According to a report from the Peterson Institute for International Economicswomen leaders can add 6% to net earnings. This could make a significant difference during times of turmoil in the industry.

So, if 61% of Oil & Gas companies recognise that gender diversity improves financial business performance, why are we not taking advantage of this opportunity?  

The reasons for lack of diversity

Many reasons for lack of diversity stem from incorrect perceptions that women are less flexible, unwilling to take on challenging roles or ‘overly focused’ on raising a family.

The industry also has a reputation for being a ‘good old boys club’ and overall, it has a poor reputation as a place for a woman to establish her career. Those in positions of power are also more inclined to help others who are like them, which is another reason why people from ethnic minorities are under-represented. Along with the lack of access to opportunities and career advancement, it is therefore not surprising that many women move away from oil and gas careers. Thus, few make it to senior leadership positions in the industry.

Other industries

To be fair, the oil and gas industry is not the only industry with misconceptions about women at work. A recent BBC article reveals the top worst excuses for not appointing women executives to FTSE company boards. Some of the reasons include women not being able to work under pressure of boardrooms and some explanations stating that, “All the good women are snapped up”. The explanations came from a range of FTSE 350 chairs and chief executives that were heard by a team conducting the review.

Current steps to improve diversity across oil & gas

Today’s industry leaders are making strides to combat the assumptions and negative perceptions about diversity in the Oil and Gas workplace. Many have included diversity and inclusion as part of their core operating principles.  Advertisements and website imagery portray the diverse oil & gas workforce, albeit the one they are hoping to achieve.  Chevron and ExxonMobil have recognised investment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs for children around the world as a root factor in a more diverse future workforce.

At university level, recruitment strategies with clear KPIs ensure a diverse pool of new graduates.  These efforts are followed up with mentor programs and improved work life policies to retain women in the workplace.  Furthermore, some companies now offer unconscious bias training to help change company culture and reduce the gender parity.

I encourage women to drive the speed of diversity by taking action to advance their own careers in the industry. In discussion with female leaders, EY’s Women in Industry website lists what women can do to take action:

·  Take charge of your career by being clear and spreading the word about what you want

·  Seek mentors and sponsors to endorse you for positions

·  Build relationships outside existing networks through focused networking.

Diversity at Prodrill

Prospective female employees should ask about diversity, work-life balance and company culture in the interview process. As a leader in the oil & gas industry in Aberdeen, we are proud of Prodrill’s diverse workforce where many key positions are held by women, including the role of Managing Director.

By 2133, the World Economic Forum estimates that we will reach gender parity. But waiting that long  isn’t an option for businesses. The evidence is clear that a more gender diverse leadership brings benefits to the company and across industry.  Women in oil & gas have the potential for bright futures with rewarding careers.