A lack of workforce diversity can damage the bottom lines of oil and gas companies, panelists at the recent GasTech Virtual Summit 2020 said, with the current downturn harboring the potential to exacerbate those issues.

“Sometimes diversity efforts take an active step in the wrong direction,” said Julie Mayo, energy transactions partner and head of U.S. oil and gas at the Norton Rose Fulbright international law firm. “We certainly saw that to some degree in the 2008 economic crisis and also the 2014 oil price crash, where diverse employees were disproportionately impacted by layoffs, furloughs and salary cuts. Those choices have consequences because we all know that a larger number of women in leadership roles leads to higher profits and that’s just looking at gender diversity.”

Companies represented by the four panelists already have formal programs in place. Tracy Lothian, Singapore-based senior vice president, LNG at Exxon Mobil, has been among those spearheading the Power Play initiative, which connects women in the LNG business.

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