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International Women’s Day 2018: Meet Bronwyn

With the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away - there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. Global activism for women's equality is fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp driving a strong global momentum for gender parity. While we know that gender parity won't happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day.

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  1. How did you end up working in the oil and energy sector?

I studied Oceanography and Geology, which led to marine geology and geophysics, which led to working for the marine unit of the geological survey (local, near-shore projects). I was then introduced to my previous employer through a professor who worked in industry and have continued in the offshore industry ever since.

 

  1. What has been the most satisfying thing that you have achieved throughout your career?

Hmm, well it’s always satisfying when you actually get to complete a project successfully, but the most satisfaction was actually when I completed my Masters. I had been at it, on and off, whilst working, but only got it finished when I took a sabbatical of sorts and studied full time.

 

  1. What challenges (if any) did you face as a woman working in this industry?

I don’t know that I’ve had to face many challenges, per se. It’s always a little annoying to see your name as “Mr” on the air ticket or to be met with the shocked “you’re a girl!” (mostly in Africa, I must say). The people in the industry (scientists and survey crew) are less surprised, it’s more the marine crews and locals that you meet. I was once charmingly denied access to the harbour at Mossel Bay to join the ship because I was a woman, and thus could not possibly be working on the ship docked right there! Fortuitously it was eventually sorted out, and myself and the other lady geo were put on the list to allow us access (the guard still looked at us suspiciously as we went in and out – the fact that she was a woman too obviously had no bearing on her beliefs).

 

  1. Have the #MeToo or #TimesUp campaign had any impact within the offshore industry?

I’m not sure about this one, I really have no idea. When you’re offshore you are mostly focusing on the team and the job at hand and aren’t really paying too much attention to what’s going on back onshore. There is usually quite a bit of camaraderie as people try to get along. This is essential for sanity in tight confines for 12 hour shifts from which there is no real escape.

 

  1. Do you find there is cross-over between your onshore and offshore life (i.e. do family/friends understand your work and work environment)?

Generally I think my family and friends understand what I do, and a bit about the environments and conditions I work in. Some in more detail than others, but it really is hard to truly understand offshore life unless you’ve lived it. Apparently I have “the best stories” 🙂 Though that would probably be true of most people that work in foreign environments doing exciting things like looking at the bottom of the ocean or at long forgotten unexploded ordinance versus someone that works in an office. I love the fact that things can be so different from job to job.

 

  1. Do you anticipate a skills-shortage in the offshore sector?

I think that there are a lot of people with very valuable knowledge that are retiring from the sector and fewer younger people coming in to replace them. The recent dip in the oil price has had an effect on the offshore sector that hasn’t quite been covered by renewables, with less work around, especially for freelancers. It was better last year, but 2015 and 2016 were dire and this may have both dissuaded some people from entering the industry and forced others out of it – creating a skills-shortage.

 

  1. What role do you think women have in the future of the sector?

Women have a continually bigger role to play, through all areas in the oil and energy sector, both onshore and offshore. What type of role? Well, I would like to think that they would be welcome in whatever role they had chosen to pursue. Merely by being visible in the industry they’re changing the, somewhat ingrained, perception that working offshore is “man’s work” and the biases that come with that.

 

  1. What are some key issues which need to be addressed to bring more women into the sector?

STEM subjects and careers should be highlighted and made fun for all children. By doing this you will have more, of both genders, studying further in degrees and vocations that will naturally lead them to the sector. Career paths should not be gendered, either overtly or through the status quo. It’s extremely important to be inclusive and accessible or you will have talented individuals go elsewhere – to where they feel more appreciated or that their skills could take them further up the ladder.  In a business where efficiency and innovation can seriously affect the bottom line, talent should be cultivated and attracted from whomever can provide it.

 

  1. What is the most important message you want to send out to young women considering a career in oil and energy?

Go for it! If you’re interested and have a passion for something, don’t let anyone dissuade you or think that you should go for a more ‘traditional’ career path. It’s loads of fun and never boring. You meet interesting people from all walks of life and cultures, you get to work on something that everyone needs (one way or the other) and you often get to travel to places that you wouldn’t normally have seen.