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The Oil and Gas Sector is a Great Place for Women

Having worked in Oil and Gas recruitment, I’m regularly reminded of the amount, or lack, of women that are in the industry. Whilst I seek them out to provide diverse shortlists for my clients, it’s often a challenge to find any women working in certain areas of the O&G space.

For the next article in our #womeninindustrial series, I wanted to ask, why? Whilst I don’t see a huge number of females in the market, what I do see is a whole host of companies that are clamouring to hire more women and an industry that’s becoming ever more welcoming.

I’ve spoken to three industry leaders about the issue: Carla Riddell, SVP West of Shetlands at Spirit Energy, Judit Prieto, VP Sales & Commercial at BHGE and Laure Mandrou, Global Marketing & Technology VP at Schlumberger.

Carla Riddell, SVP West of Shetlands at Spirit Energy, Judit Prieto, VP Sales & Commercial at BHGE and Laure Mandrou, Global Marketing & Technology VP from Schlumberger.

The Issues

From my research, and from talking to these women, it became apparent that there’s a real problem with getting women in at the top of the funnel for employment, i.e. studying STEM subjects at colleges and Universities, with only 24% of STEM students in the UK being women.

Carla from Spirit Energy was one of these women and bore witness to that drop off first-hand. From a fairly even gender split in her Geology BSc, she was one of only two women to take it to MSc level and then, when entering the O&G sector, was usually the only female on the rig.

And the ‘drop off’ from that point on continues, all the way through to the C-suite, as you can see below.

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So why is this? Why do so many of the women who make it into the industry end up leaving altogether? And why aren’t there more women at the top of the sector?

Answering those questions in detail would require a whole host of other articles like this. The male-dominated nature of our industry creates unconscious bias against women’s abilities, even with women when they don’t see others in senior positions. One common theme I came across was that women can be their own worst enemy when it comes to putting their hand up for that challenging new role. This sentiment was echoed by Judit, who said that women are much more aware of the challenges because they know that before they walk into virtually any room that they’ll be in the minority.

Which all means that it takes a good deal of bravery for a woman to step up and be counted in for O&G. Laure said she actively encourages women to apply for front line, highly visible positions instead of resigning themselves to supporting roles, encouraging them to embrace that bravery and make a stronger impact on the industry. Which I think is a great, and necessary, idea.

Room for Everyone in O&G

Despite those issues, reaffirming the title of this article, I firmly believe that the oil and gas sector can be a fantastic industry for women to work in, for all the same reasons that it’s a fantastic sector for anyone to work in.

It’s no secret that wages are high, and travel to exotic locations (and sometimes Aberdeen) is a big part of the job, as is working with hugely diverse teams. It’s an industry which embraces technology and innovation occurs at a furious rate. Millions of people work in it and it’s never been more accessible to women for several reasons.

Prehistoric ideas about brute strength being a pre-requisite to work in the space are no longer relevant due to the aforementioned technology democratising manual labour necessary more than ever before.

Moreover, companies are now consciously making an effort to be as accommodating as possible to women, meaning that an all-male boardroom is now no longer a self-fulfilling prophecy. Carla told me that she received her promotion to SVP at Spirit Energy whilst she was on maternity leave and Laure has worked all over the world during her 18-year career with Schlumberger, culminating in her VP level position today.

Laure also told me about Schlumberger’s dual-career programme which supports couples, not just individuals, in their career. This helps rectify another big cause of ‘drop off’ – starting a family.

The Future Looks Bright

In addition to initiatives that already exist, plans are also being put in place to make sure the future for women in O&G looks even brighter than it does today, something that all three of the women I spoke with mentioned.

Carla told me that at Spirit Energy, they are putting all managers and potential managers through training to eliminate unconscious bias and that diverse recruiting and interview panels are integral to their hiring processes.

Judit spoke of the momentum being generated by women in oil and gas and that it’s a priority for the boards of every major company. BHGE have also implemented a STEM programme which sees them visit schools and universities all over the world to try and attract more women to the sector, pre-college efforts focus on STEM or internal sponsorship program focused on mid-career women in Stem.

Laure said she was proud of Schlumberger for the work they’re continuing to do in this area. As well as the dual career programme, Schlumberger has in place their ‘Connect Women’ community – a scheme of now 5,650 members which involves women across the business and men, with the mission to empower and connect women to achieve their full potential.

Hopefully more and more women start to take notice of the opportunities the O&G industry presents and I’ll soon be able to easily provide my clients with 50/50 shortlists. It’s a brilliant industry that provides a world of opportunity for everyone.

A huge thanks goes to Carla Riddell, Judit Prieto & Laure Mandrou for taking the time to discuss this topic and provide some excellent food for thought for Women in the O&G sector.

Follow #womeninindustrial to see more conversations like this with leading women in the industrial sector from Charlton Morris.

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