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Women: An untapped reserve that the O&G industry has slept on for years

What is the one thing a surveyor, engineer, manager or crane operator doesn’t have to be in order to be a success – twenty points for the first person to get it right.

How many of you thought: “Not a guy?”

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But here’s the weird thing. There are almost less women in the oil and gas industry than any other out there (construction scraps past and takes that undesired accolade).


That’s a pretty damning fact. It comes from new research by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Petroleum Council. It showed that women make up 60% of staff in health and social care positions, 55% in education yet just 22% in oil and gas. (If you’re wondering, it’s 11% in construction.) Only 1% are CEOs.


The Chief Executive of Oil & Gas UK says there must be a complete overhaul of the understanding about roles woman can do in the industry. “The majority of women in STEM sectors.. typically work in administrative or support functions which are lower paid than technical roles and this fuels the gender pay gap when reporting is done across the whole workforce,” noted Deirdre Michie. “This shows the work that industry and society needs to continue to do to encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects, creating a pathway for more women to forge careers within the technical sector.”


Oil & Gas UK claims the North Sea is bucking the trend and points to the head of Chevron Europe Upstream (Greta Lydecker), CE of the new Oil & Gas Technology Centre (Colette Cohen), Statoil’s new MD for UK operations (Hedda Felin), Mearsk Oil’s CE (Gretchen Watkins) as well as Total’s UK CE (Elizabeth Proust).


The study showed a significant drop in levels of job satisfaction between the 3 to 5-year mark. It’s put down to an expected challenge in balancing career and family demands, but also a lack of job opportunities (51%) and sponsorship for career advancement (69%). Interestingly only 31% of men thought a lack of access of job opportunities was a problem which suggests women are simply not being offered roles.


And it doesn’t end there. It continues with differences in the pay packets. Unison trade official Sarah Duncan described a situation when a woman only found out she was being paid 30% less than four men on the same level when she was accidentally copied into an email by accident. She had more responsibilities and more experience, but still her employer thought it acceptable to pay her less.

If you wonder whether it makes a difference, it’s estimated that paying Scottish women the same as Scottish men would equate to an increase of £7bn into the local economy.


It’s not just a macro-level loss. It’s impacting on business that affects each one of us day and daily. We are all aware of the difficulties facing the industry in recruitment, and the way things are currently managed this is not an attractive choice for highly qualified female candidates, especially when other industries are actively making moves to employ more skilled women.


There’s one thing that might make all the difference. A little piece of research that came from the Peterson Institute. It reported that having more women in the senior management of a company led to an increase in its profitability. Around 22,000 companies in 91 countries were surveyed. An interesting finding.


What are your thoughts? Share your experiences with us.