Bridging the Divide

Panorama Digital Control Center

Myriad obstacles have hampered women's participation in the hydrocarbons sector. One fundamental problem is the low level of girls pursuing STEM subject education essential for technical careers. As of 2017, the Middle East region registered the highest percentage of women in STEM education, at 39%, lagged by Central and South America's 31% and trouncing Europe and the US at 24% and 21%, respectively. However, women in the sector have tended to occupy support functions on the human resources, IT, and legal fronts, rather than, say, research. But in step with broader social changes, such stereotypes are being challenged. What's more, the oil and gas sector is facing the reality of an aging workforce; the case seems clear for more women to inject the diversity of skill and innovation required for sustainable growth.Some Vital StatisticsUntil quite recently, limited data was available on women in the energy sector, which is telling in itself. But that's changed, as key organizations, including recruiters themselves, now produce regular studies. In fact, these correlate to other studies indicating that any organization displaying gender opportunity registers better in terms of creativity and ultimately at the bottom line—to the tune of an additional 6%, according to research from the Peterson Institute for International Economics. In short, entirely healthy disruption.Leading the ChargeSeveral organizations have taken up the equal opportunity gauntlet within the sector. With a 40-plus year pedigree as a global recruitment specialist for employers and professionals in the oil, gas, and energy sector, Petroplan tells it like it is. Women account for 22% of employees in the oil and gas industry globally—the second lowest among key economic sectors after construction (11%). Globally, that's less than a quarter of the sector's employees, with the number predictably tapering off the higher up the corporate totem pole. Exceptions such as Canadian PrairieSky Royalty Ltd. are cited, where the management team as of 2020 was 75% female, including 50% of upper management. The catchily named Pink Petro, meanwhile, established in 2015 as an online platform for women in the energy sector, is another exemplar challenging the energy gig's gender gap.In the UK, an organization championing diversity within the industry is the Aberdeen X-Industry Support Network (AXIS). To date, numerous oil and gas enterprises with their own diversity goals have signed the AXIS Pledge, a commitment within the scope of Aberdeen's energy sector to redress its gender gap. More Data in the PipelineAt the 19th World Petroleum Congress, Norway boasted passing a law requiring that 40% of the board members of Norwegian listed companies, notably including over three dozen energy companies, must be women. And in 2017, at the 22nd World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul, the World Petroleum Council and The Boston Consulting Group launched their first joint study on the gender diversity landscape of the sector, titled “Untapped Reserves: Promoting Gender Balance in Oil and Gas.“ An ongoing study to be updated every three years, data is based on 38 companies with overall revenues of USD1.9 trillion and whose employees account for 25-30% of the industry's workforce. The latest results will be announced at the 23rd WPC in Houston on December 5-9, 2021.Across the Board CommitmentAbu Dhabi is taking women's inclusion seriously. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is an exemplar, with the initiatives to back up its words. HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and CEO of ADNOC, notes that gender diversity fuels competitive advantage in science, engineering, and management. He has championed a policy of appointing a female CEO within the group. Other targets include 15% of senior managers being women, while a third goal was to boost new Emirati female recruits to 30% of the total by 2020. At ADNOC, 10% of employees are women (71% being Emiratis), compared to 3% for the wider Middle East. What's more, four “enabling initiatives“ include an ADNOC oil and gas asset to be managed by women, for which the Al Rumaitha oil field was earmarked. Beyond that, there's the setting up of a Gender Policy Framework, ADNOC's Women's Network, and a Women's Leadership Development Program. ADNOC's strategy for smart growth 2030 has the commitment, by end-2022, to ensure women's representation on all boards of directors of group companies where it owns a majority stake.In conclusion, talk of course is cheap, and the sector's talent pipeline requires proactive measures to encourage young women to pursue science paths in education followed by real-world mentoring. Because whatever the motive—equal opportunity or profit margin—the growing representation of women in once male industries can only be a win-win.