When oil and gas industry jobs came to mind, it was typical to conjure up images of work boot and hard hat-clad roustabouts manning dirty oilfield equipment or highly paid men in dark-colored suits making business decisions or carrying out other work.
More often than not, those oil and gas workers were, and still are, men—more specifically, white men. The so-called good ‘ole boy network spanned generations.
Times, however, have changed as more women join the oil and gas workforce, armed with knowledge and a network of mentors.
Realizing the benefit of having diversity of thought to help drive innovation, profits and efficiency among other areas, companies and industry organizations have formed initiatives to encourage women to seek out careers in oil and gas. Some of these efforts target younger generations, aiming to foster a love of STEM with elementary school-aged girls. Companies team up with universities, nonprofits and others with the same or similar missions to offer programs and events.
Progress is evident in the stories of women honored as the 2021 Oil and Gas Investor’s Influential Women in Energy. A heartfelt congratulations goes out to all honorees, and job well done also goes to the many women in energy-related jobs not listed but equally deserving of recognition.
The industry may be seeing more women in executive, technical and other positions today compared to decades ago. However, the gender gap has not disappeared.
Tough years seen for the oil and gas industry lately have perhaps made bridging the gap more challenging. The industry has endured tumultuous oil prices, investor pressure to take ESG issues seriously and the COVID-19 global pandemic, which slowed demand and resulted in hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in various sectors in the U.S.—disproportionately impacting women in many instances.
As the oil and gas industry’s workforce pool shrinks, data from the International Energy Agency show “women’s participation in the energy sector is below that of the broader economy and varies widely across energy sub-sectors.
Despite making up 48% of the global labor force, women only account for 22% of the labor force in the oil and gas sector and 32% in renewables.”
The years ahead will likely hold more challenges as industry players work to meet net-zero emissions goals amid a push for cleaner forms of energy.
“To achieve net zero, we need equal amounts of human and financial capital,” ALLY Energy CEO Katie Mehnert said during this year’s IPWeek. “Everyone thinks that this is a money thing and it’s a technology thing. ... But without people, none of this is going to happen. We need all people and all forms of energy to fully enable this transition.”
I agree and want to emphasize all people. Though there’s been some forward movement, it is evident that the oil and gas industry has not made much improvement in terms of racial diversity, inclusion and equity.
Some organizations have stepped up efforts to change that.
Coming later this year, Hart Energy will high- light some of the initiatives oil and gas companies and industry associations have undertaken to drive change in an effort to keep the pipeline filled with qualified candidates of different backgrounds. Doing so brings unique insight into the needs and wants of customers and helps guard against unconscious bias, while strengthening reputations and growing the talent pool.
By now, I’d hope that everyone sees the value of diversity in the workplace. But which companies are taking it seriously? Who’s leading the efforts? Who’s aligning company goals with diversity practices? And who’s reaping the benefits?
Efforts shouldn’t just be window dressing but embedded in the business culture.
Shell CEO Ben van Beurden summed up the case for diversity nicely when he said, “We need to ensure that the portfolio of our global business and products is attractive to both our partners and customers. I don’t believe we can achieve this without a diverse workforce that actually reflects the diversity of our partners and customers and the countries in which we operate.”