OCN asked executives from the Global Women Petroleum & Energy Club for their view of the industry, and what they feel women can add to the global energy effort.
The Global Women Petroleum & Energy Club has a goal to connect corporate and state players to facilitate critical industry interests and deal flow in the global upstream industry. It provides networking forums for companies, governments, and national oil companies across the value chain. OffComm News asked some of the club’s members for their view of the future of our industry, and what they feel women can add to the global energy effort.
Deirdre O’Donnel, MD of Working Smart Limited, Global Petroleum Recruitment
O’Donnel started work as a scientific software developer in 1987, when such roles were in high demand. She chose a job at a drilling and geoscience company.
“When I heard there were opportunities to travel I signed up there and then. Within four months, I was travelling extensively; visiting countries I had never even heard of and had a fantastic time. I was always treated with respect although in some cases the client was surprised to see a young female arriving to do what they considered was a ‘ man’s role’ – it was never dull!”
Challenges for the E& P sector today
O’Donnel believes that sustainability is the key challenge, as in, how long can companies operate in this low oil price market? In her experience, many companies have gone through multiple redundancy rounds in the last 12 months, some have been forced to close, and many advise that more redundancies are due in 2016. “The ability to further drive down operating costs will be imperative to many over the next 12 months or we will witness further acquisitions and mergers,” she said. “With a sustainability focus, little attention is given to long- term objectives and, as such, the problems from the 1999 crash will be repeated and intensified. The reality is that the majority of our industry is 50+ years; we have about 14- 20% in mid- tier; failed unstructured mentoring; made many young players redundant in this crash; and have not hired recent graduates.”
When the upturn comes
She also issues a warning, in that there needs to be a collaborative industry approach to tackle these issues from all aspects, such as: hiring departed professionals as mentors, through to educating and encouraging our youth to consider the sector.
“When the upturn comes, as it will, we will be faced with a crippling shortage of skills, as well as a lack of mentors; a decline in university uptake; damaged reputations because of the continued cyclic nature of our industry; mid- tier forced into senior level roles; and a younger generation ill- prepared for the technical and managerial requirements for growth,” she said.
Nana Denkye Appiah- Nuamah, reservoir engineer, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation
Appiah- Nuamah started working for Ghana’s National Oil Company in 2008, shortly after the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Ghana.
“It’s quite exciting to be part of an industry
that provides such a fundamental commodity to the world. It has a way of making me feel like I'm helping to contribute to developing the world. I also love the diversity in the industry, meeting people from different parts of the world, as well as the opportunity to travel far and wide.”
Appiah- Nuamah concurs on challenges that the current oil price brings, as well as the age/ experience demographics with a gap in mid- level/ mid management expertise. She said: “I believe what needs to be considered is an aggressive campaign to expose the newer recruits to a range of projects and also systematically include them in the decision making stages to ensure that they are able to gain the experience needed to step into the shoes of the more experienced personnel over time.”
Addressing skills shortages
Appiah- Nuamah continued that: “Even though more women work in the industry now, there's room for many more at all levels and right from the secondary schools. Groups like the Global Women
Petroleum and Energy Club can participate in career fairs and set up mentoring programs to show young women what the possibilities are in the O& G sector. I mentor a few young women who have just started their careers and it is fulfilling to be able to share experiences, exchange ideas, and provide some guidance where needed.”
The good news is that there has been a major increase in the number of women graduating in geosciences and engineering over the past 10 to 15 years. Also more prevalent today, is that nearly all of the majors have ‘ Diversity Programs’ in place, which has lead to less of the ‘ glass ceiling’ phenomenon, and brought about a major increase in female Board Directors.
“Without a doubt,” says O’Donnel, “we will see more females in senior management and board level positions in the forthcoming years. This will further change the dynamics of discussion/ debate within organisations, not only improving the cultural and emotional wellbeing of an organisation, but adding significantly to the advancement of technical and operational ideas and the management of growth.”
What can women bring to the sector?
Commenting generally on the ratio of women in IT, Tracy Pound, founder of MaximITy, feels that there’s a lot said but not enough that actually gets done. Pound began her career as a programmer in 1984 and was appointed as a manager at a small software company aged 21. She was then headhunted by a division of BTR Industries ( formerly British Tyre and Rubber Co) where she was its first female manager, the youngest to head up the company’s UK IT operations at 27 years of age, and responsible for managing an annual CAPEX budget of £ 8 million.
As a director, of the international, US- based IT trade association CompTIA, Pound has set out to help spearhead an ‘ Advancing
women in IT’ awareness drive. “IT is an industry that is crying out for the attributes women possess,” she said. “It needs people who are decisive, have good interpersonal skills, and work well in teams. The technical skills can be taught but, unfortunately, changing mindsets is not so easy. I don’t know why but there seems to be a general attitude that IT roles are more suited to men.”
CEO, Dregwaters Petroleum & Logistics Ltd
Owolabi’s company is dedicated to helping clients secure licenses and permits for Oil & Gas operations in Nigeria, where operators find that they are often affected by bottlenecks usually characterising regulatory / government relations and processes.
When we asked her how she found herself working in the industry, she replied: “I will say it was by accident or to put it succinctly, the industry found me and I got stuck to it. Honestly, I am loving it.”
Owolabi concluded: “In most countries of the world, the need for competent workers in the industry regardless of their gender is fast growing. As energy companies around the globe expand their efforts to recruit, retain and develop employees with broader range of backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets - more gender barriers are beginning to fall.”
“I’m looking for the industry to have a fair and balanced approach towards women, which by its nature, involves raising our profile so that we get noticed and not passed by.” Pound at MaximITy