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

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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.

Male domain

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 .

Con­cerns re­main

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

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