I used to be impressed that LUX Assure was an oilfield technology company where, unusually, most staff were women. Now, I feel more encouraged by the fact we’re gender balanced.
This, however, is certainly not the industry norm. While this isn’t a problem exclusive to the oil and gas industry, research does suggest that the under-representation of women is particularly prevalent in our sector. The World Petroleum Council and the Boston Consulting Group reported that “with women representing roughly a fifth of the employees in the sector’s workforce, they account for a significantly smaller share of the workforce than in almost any other sector… these women also work disproportionately in office jobs; they have a very limited presence in both technical roles, which are often considered prerequisites for career advancement, and in upper management”. These are fairly depressing statistics.
There are many events, initiatives and groups designed to encourage and support women in oil and gas careers, many of which I am or have been involved in. I believe that progress in this area is being made, however not particularly rapidly.
Gender balance is an important goal, but women need to be recognised for the skills, experience and the quality of knowledge they have to offer. I have personal experience of being invited to
contribute to industry events or panels with the deep suspicion that I was there to balance the panel, rather than the contribution I may, or may not, be able to make.
Perhaps the main issue here is that we don’t catch women at a young enough age. How can we be better represented at senior levels within the industry, when the odds are against us entering that industry at all?
The good news is that this issue is being recognised, and increasingly addressed. Much is being done to encourage both girls and boys to take an interest in STEM subjects, and efforts from the likes of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, with its global Energy4Me programme, should be applauded.
Last year, a few articles focusing on the importance of role models resonated with me. What young children see around them can influence their thinking and what they want to grow up to do. That means an interest in STEM subjects must be instilled from a young age. An article in the press last year suggested that children even as young as seven had ideas about the jobs men and women ‘should’ do.
This is an issue I have already raised at my children’s nursery, by waving around one such article and being labelled the crazy parent, and I believe we can all help. Every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister are as important in tackling this issue as the wider industry. For my part, I’ve decided that I should practise what I preach. So I’m off to think of a dramatic (but of course safe!) experiment to take to nursery to inspire some eager-to-learn four-year-olds.