It can’t be denied that the oil and gas industry is male dominated and casting your eye around any trade show, conference or workspace will confirm this. Occupations within our industry, and engineering as a whole, have always been considered as male career paths, however, is the industry losing out by not tapping in to a large portion of the talent pool and does more need to be done to draw women to the sector? I’ve asked myself these questions frequently over the last month or so as there has been an influx of comments and reports on the oil and gas gender gap, female employment and the general position of women in the oil and gas industry.
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A recent report from NES Global Talent was initially encouraging as it reported that ‘75% of women felt welcome working in the oil and gas industry’ and it also found that ‘82% of the respondents planned to stay in the oil and gas industry for the next 2 – 5 years.’ The IHS report Minority and Female Employment in the Oil & Gas and Petrochemical Industries stated that ‘women will share in the growth of more skilled white collar jobs and more opportunities are likely to become available for female petroleum engineers, managers etc. and is expected to increase by almost 70 000 up to 2030’ and this was also heartening news. As the discussion of the skills gap continues, it is great to see that there is enthusiasm and growth potential for women to enter and build a career within such a male dominated sector that is in need of support and fresh recruits.
However, there is still work to be done if the oil and gas industry is to attract and retain women. The NES report found that almost half of the female respondents didn't believe that they got the same recognition as male colleagues, also, the lack of female mentors was flagged as something that the industry needs to rectify if it is to guarantee female employee retention, career development and confidence. The IHS report also pointed out that there are roles within the industry that are known as ‘traditional’ female jobs and they usually fall in to the Office and Administration Support (OAS) departments. This can deter women from exploring other careers in the sector and clearly needs to be rectified. Averil Macdonald, Professor of Science Engagement, University of Reading, UK, said, ‘oil and gas sector companies should focus on engaging with young women both at school and at university, providing role models and an opportunity to see for themselves what the sector has to offer through visits and paid internships.’
The female portion of the oil and gas industry is evidently strong, but small, as discussed above and I do agree with report findings that more needs to be done to allow the industry to benefit from the seas of female talent that are available. The next steps to take, in my opinion, require the issue of worker equality to be addressed and a stronger leadership and support network needs to be developed within companies. However, the foundations to attract female students to STEM subjects at school and university need to be laid first, so that these talents are brought into and made available to our industry in the first place.