Still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil and gas industry faces multiple changes on an operational as well as social level. From increased demands for ESG programs to a need to recruit, keep and promote diverse talent, these challenges have forced flexibility and change in the way the industry operates on a daily basis.

Former 2022 “Influential Women in Energy” honorees spoke exclusively with Hart Energy about how the industry can attract and keep the diverse talent it needs in order to face these obstacles and on how the industry is changing to meet ESG challenges.

Robin Fielder is executive vice president, low carbon strategy and chief sustainability officer, at Talos Energy. She serves as the lead executive for Talos’ rapidly growing carbon capture and sequestration business and oversees ESG initiatives.

Emily McClain is vice president of North America gas and LNG markets at Rystad Energy. She is a geoscientist with research and technical experience in upstream E&P and development of conventional and unconventional oil and gas reservoirs.

Jennifer Martinez: What can the industry can do better or differently to attract and keep young and diverse talent, especially when it comes to attracting women into the male-dominated industry?

Robin Fielder: The energy industry needs to recruit early and have diverse role models involved in STEM programs and leadership positions to demonstrate that anyone can pursue leadership roles. As a sector, we are in a rebranding of what energy means, and expanding it to include low-carbon products or solutions is a great way to attract the next generation that is very socially conscious about improving the world and communities around them.

Emily McClain: Companies must take action to create more opportunities for women to assume leadership roles. Women make up a small fraction of leaders in this industry, but in order to attract and keep young and diverse talent, it is critical for leadership roles to be seen as attainable and rewarding. But this goes for all new talent, not just women in energy. If new talent can see this type of effort at an early start to their career, effort that is ingrained in the corporate culture and long-standing goals of the company, then they will most certainly want to invest their time and dedicate their career to a company setting them up for success.

JM: During your time in the industry, and especially in the past couple of years, what major changes have you seen or foresee impacting women in the industry?

RF: We all lived through the COVID pandemic and discovered that we can work in different ways and still be successful. As a population, we also learned to rethink work schedules. The traditional work schedule needs to flex during different phases in our careers and personal lives—there’s no one-size-fits-all. The industry must stay open-minded and find creative ways to offer flexibility and benefits to keep talented people from leaving and engage new talent to enhance our workforce.

Robin Fielder“Women should evaluate their wellbeing and performance often and express this to the workplace if it becomes a challenge in order to succeed in this new and evolving environment.”—Robin Fielder, Talos Energy

EM: The industry has come a long way in recent years as the pandemic paved the way (really forced) the industry to face remote work challenges and adapt to new forms of interaction and communication. In my opinion, this has been a significant advance in our industry for attracting new talent, as it has enabled increased flexibility and work-life balance. Remote work has especially opened the door for women as more and more companies have the ability to hire better talent globally.

JM: What advice would you give to women in the industry to face these challenges in order to succeed?

EM: Women have and can continue to tap into the benefits of working remotely, but it is important to keep one’s self-discipline in check as it could lead to longer work hours, which could offset the work-life balance we all strive for. Another challenge to remote work is the tendency of women being overlooked for promotions, as it could be harder to showcase performance remotely. Women should evaluate their wellbeing and performance often and express this to the workplace if it becomes a challenge in order to succeed in this new and evolving environment.

RF: I advise other women to speak up if they have any special circumstances for themselves or a family situation rather than assuming there are no options. Be open to trying new roles, learning new competencies, and building non-traditional skills to stay fresh. Even though it was not in your original career plans, you can still accomplish your goals.

Also, be intentional about networking and connecting with others, which enables more opportunities to come your way.

JM: How has the industry responded to the increasing call and challenge to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint?

EM: The adoption of low-carbon initiatives has increased over the years, but fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy landscape today. It will take time for the energy transition to play out and for renewables to overtake traditional energy sources like coal and gas. Since the shale boom, with natural gas jobs being added and offsetting coal, those working within it have learned to adapt and will continue to do so. This type of change towards reduced carbon footprints will surely change the energy industry, but the potential for future career opportunities in this sector is long-standing.

RF: Talos is proud to develop CCS projects within our Low Carbon Solutions business. Sustainability planning is part of our strategy and a way to leverage our core competencies and skill sets to be a recognized leader in the domestic decarbonization space. By tapping into our expertise in the subsurface, project execution and operations and by partnering with others to leverage their skills, we can be more efficient as we tackle the challenges associated with an evolving regulatory environment, emerging technologies and the energy transition.

JM: How is your company benchmarking ESG initiatives across the industry?

EM: The energy industry is one of the most transparent industries in the world and much of that has been voluntary. In my view, this comes with the job. Energy is a part of nearly every aspect of our daily lives so it's no wonder our industry embraces accountability initiatives like ESG.

“Women make up a small fraction of leaders in this industry, but in order to attract and keep young and diverse talent, it is critical for leadership roles to be seen as attainable and rewarding.”—Emily McClain, Rystad Energy

At Rystad Energy, our research and analysis has shifted increasingly into new, low-carbon sectors, with clients in both fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors showing profound interest in our coverage of the energy transition and ESG incentives. As such, we have built out our solutions to conduct detailed research into the U.S. oil and gas industry’s ESG and sustainability trends. Across the board we are seeing a healthy level of commitment to all three initiatives.

RF: Environmentally, Talos has greenhouse-gas reduction targets to address our Scope 1 emissions. We are building our low-carbon solutions portfolio, which addresses Scope 3 as we help our industrial customers decarbonize.

Social considerations are very relevant when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Talos continuously evaluates and modernizes benefits like parental leave and flexible work schedules, which are important to recruit a diverse workforce. Also, a strong company culture keeps employees engaged, safe and satisfied with their job.

Talos has been on a governance journey since starting with private equity partners, becoming public in 2018, and now enhancing our board’s independence through proposed changes with the EnVen acquisition. We proactively engage with our shareholders to understand what is important to them for enhanced disclosure and proposed policy changes. We know transparency is key.