Monday, September 9, 2013

Women and Oil Can Mix

My wife attended a conference last week in Scotland where opportunities for women in technical fields of the oil and gas industry was one of the themes.  The 2013 Offshore Europe Conference was held in Aberdeen and is a huge biennial event for the oil and gas industry, with more than 31,000 attendees this year.  Ellen is the Chief Scientist for one of the large oil and gas companies and spoke in a technology session.  A number of the other sessions also highlighted women speakers, and there was a Women in Energy luncheon at which the Princess Royal spoke.  She is Princess Anne, the second child of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.  She is patron of Women Into Science and Engineering (WISE), which is an organization supporting women "from the classroom to the boardroom".

The oil and gas industry has historically not been the place to find many women employees in technical jobs.  This is partly related to the general weak interest in science and tech fields stemming from preferences and social pressure in schools, but also due to the perceived danger and physical labor in the energy sector.  Princess Anne made a strong case that the world should change, and is changing.  She told the attendees that their industry would greatly benefit from contributions by all people, regardless of gender.  She hit right at the bottom line, saying "“Improving your performance in promoting women will improve your profitability."

The numbers are starting to look promising.  Women now make up one-third of undergrad and graduate degree earners in geoscience and petroleum engineering.  There is also growing appreciate in the companies of the benefits of expanding job searches to a wider diverse pool.

Ellen's experience has been positive.   There is a wide range of science and technology problems in the industry, and employees generally rotate among different assignments to develop a broad understanding of the different activities that are needed to deliver value.  A growing number of women are advancing into leadership positions, but it will take quite a few years for the wave of young women graduates to wash up in large numbers to the top jobs.

See web article for my source material.