ENERGY INDUSTRY AND GENDER EQUALITY
The global energy industry is still far from achieving equal opportunity for women and needs to consider steps to accelerate real gender balance by reaching out to young female students and enlightening them on the longterm career prospects on offer with
The global energy industry is still far from achieving equal opportunity for women and needs to consider steps to accelerate real gender balance by reaching out to young female students and enlightening them on the long-term career prospects on offer with a commitment to flexibility in the workplace.
In a recent Gulf Intelligence survey conducted in association with the Qatari Businesswomen Association in March, over half of the 150 female energy industry executives polled expressed the view that under current policies it could take another 30 to 40 years for the global energy industry to achieve gender equality. Only 7% of the survey respondents expressed a view that equal opportunities exist in the energy sector today.
The survey identified that introducing flexible work options was by far the biggest single accelerator for achieving greater gender equality in the energy sector.
Flexi-work practices already exist casually at most organisations. Employees leave work early to attend children's activities, or take time in the morning for a doctor's appointment. Staffers work from home when they are expecting the plumber, and anyone with a smartphone or tablet seems to check work email at night and on the weekends.
Casual work flexibility empowers employees to better balance their work and personal lives. But could a formalised flexible work programme reap benefits for a company, in addition to benefitting employees, especially female employees? The answer is yes.
The GI survey found that 55% of respondents believed that offering more flexibility in the workplace was the most important strategy to adopt in order to accelerate gender equality in the energy sector. In second place, 18% thought the industry needed to spend more time on educating young females about career prospects, while only 6% considered the
industry's traditional macho image and other stereotypes to be obstacles to females pursuing careers in oil and gas.
The energy industry has traditionally been a male domain and attracted limited numbers of females into its fold, despite slowly opening up to greater female participation since the 1970s.
According to the Hays Oil and Gas Global Salary Guide, in 2012 only 7.8% of the global oil and gas workforce was female, a slight increase on the 7.1% figure a year earlier, but still a dismal performance.
To be sure, there have been some encouraging developments. In the U.S., for example, the shale boom helped drive up the number of women working in oil and gas fields by about 60% to 78,400 between 2004 and 2011, according to research by energy publication Rigzone. A recent report from IHS Global found that by 2030 the industry could add 185,000 more women to its ranks, with females also sharing in the growth of more skilled white-collar jobs in the industry.
Still, for now women continue to represent a small share of the oil industry's workforce and even fewer hold engineering or other technical roles. The same is true for board-level positions. A study conducted by PwC found that women occupy only 11% of seats on the boards of directors of the world's 100 largest listed oil and gas companies. “The only sector with a poorer record is the mining industry,” PwC said in an industry gender report.
Against this backdrop, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that a mere 8% of the Gulf Intelligence survey respondents expressed confidence that it would only take the global oil and gas industry ten years before gender balance would be achieved .
At the same time, concerns remain over companies putting in place sufficient rules and regulations to deal with gender diversification.
According to the survey, 58% of respondents acknowledged that some progress had been made but further action was needed to address the issue. Another 21% of survey participants voted that companies had failed to create environments free of harassment and discrimination, while the same number expressed the view that firms had done everything in their power to address these issues.
With this survey result in mind, it will be seminal for companies to continue implementing rules against harassment and discrimination in the workplace if and where needed, and to create an environment that accommodates female requirements. Progress on this front will go some way toward promoting the attractiveness of the oil and gas sector for females.
The oil and gas companies could improve their effectiveness in communicating to young females that, despite the stillexisting stereotypes and perceptions, the industry has come a long way over the past 10 years in particular, making it an attractive career choice for women, whether on the technical or business side.
The Gulf Intelligence survey found that nearly two thirds of respondents thought that oil companies had done a poor job in educating young women about the various career prospects on offer in the industry.
It's clear that sustained efforts will have to be made to bolster and retain the sector's female component in order to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce. It won't be easy. The gender imbalance in the energy industry has been present for decades, and with a whole generation of experienced engineers set to retire over the next 10 years and the number of new entrants limited, building a diverse workforce that includes more women isn't simply a choice; it's essential if the energy industry is to meet future challenges such as tapping into ever-more complex and remote hydrocarbon reservoirs – whether on a global level or in the oil and gas-rich Gulf region
“The oil and gas companies could improve their effectiveness in communicating to young females that, despite the stillexisting stereotypes and perceptions, the industry has come a long way over the past 10 years, making it an attractive career choice for women, whether on the technical or business side.”
BY SEAN EVERS Managing Partner Gulf Intelligence