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The Rise of Women in the Oil & Gas Industry

Amal Abdallah – Social Media & Marketing Coordinator, Clover Global Solutions, LP

One thing can be said about the career-oriented woman; no longer is there a typical job or a ‘suggested’ career path for the young female professional. Long gone are the days of basic office roles and run-in-the-mill positions for the driven woman. This fact has proven to be true in recent years; especially noticeable with the ever-changing, ever-dynamic oil and gas industry.

In fact, career prospects for women in the oil and gas industry have improved in recent years and an increasing number of women are taking advantage of such opportunities. The Diversity and Inclusion Report conducted yearly by BP suggested that 60% of respondents expect to see an increase in female representation within the industry.


An unsurprising 72% of the oil and gas professionals surveyed for the Diversity and Inclusion Report said that oil and gas is still a male-dominated industry. Regardless, a sense of urgency remains to attract more women to the industry; we can’t have the best industry if we don’t have the best talent, regardless of the gender divide. In order to fix the problem, we have to find a solution to the imbalance.

Now in order to find the solution, we need to identify the problem, which is the fact that by the time these women graduate, they’ve already excluded engineering as a potential career path – so to counter this, we must reach out to the youth and inspire them to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) degrees and instill this interest in them from the beginning.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, former oil patch worker-turned Interior Secretary Sally Jewell suggested that diversity in the oil and gas industry isn’t a mirror of the diversity in the country. “We all need to work together to create an environment that is welcoming of women, of people of color, of people with different backgrounds, because the industry is missing some super-talented folks who could strengthen it,” she said.

On the other hand, women are beginning to take notice and pay more attention to the industry – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women filled nearly one-third of the jobs added in the upstream oil and natural gas sector in the first quarter of 2013. Once more, a recent report from IHS Global suggests that by 2030 the industry could add 185,000 more women to its ranks.

Furthermore, the report suggested that women will share in the growth of more skilled white-collar jobs in the industry – opportunities will exist for female petroleum engineers, managers and other professionals, and the number of job opportunities is expected to grow by 70,000 from 2010 to 2030.


The Current Situation

While the challenges females in the industry are facing may not be deal-breakers, they are still just as important to recognize and take note of. In an NES Global Survey examining the gender and talent gap, women noted most of their grievances and challenges within the industry as those which inhibit their job career/job growth opportunities – a lack of mentorship, no opportunities for working in offshore positions, or a recruiting system that is less than open-minded when it comes to recognizing people with transferable skills. Some respondents also expressed that they are paid less and have to work twice as hard as men do to prove themselves. Obviously these issues are not exclusive to the oil and gas sector, as they are experienced by women working in many different professions. However, in order to create a truly diverse workforce throughout OUR industry, these challenges need to be acknowledged and addressed.

Still, women are paying more attention to this field, regardless of the potential setbacks. The share of women in the traditionally female-dominated ‘office and administrative support’ category in the oil & gas industry is predicted to fall, although this field will always be a key source of potential opportunities for women.

Furthermore, the number of semi-skilled and unskilled blue collar workers is projected to decline further and hold down the overall increase in female employment, there is significant potential for female blue collar employment due to large numbers of job opportunities projected in blue collar positions.


Outlook for the Future

The future for women in the oil and gas industry is predicted to be a very bright one; but this future is contingent upon the current situation and how we handle it going forward.  One way we can change this is by changing the perception of working in this lucrative industry. Carolyn Stewart, regional business development manager North America for NES Global Talent says that the overall workforce is portrayed heavily as men in hard hats working on drilling platforms in rough aspects of the industry, so it’s not so attractive to young women who may potentially want a family and kids (as these images portray a lot of time away from home). According to Stewart, the perception needs to change and the industry as a whole needs to make women aware of opportunities in project management, finance and business development to help dissolve this imagery.

As for the women engineers currently working in the industry, it’s essential to make growth opportunities available for them, and make them well known – you don’t necessarily have to be a roughneck to go offshore. The industry must work harder to show women that they can succeed in an O&G career, and support them in reaching their goals to encourage more women to join the industry. It is not just about being fair and equal in the workplace, either. With so many skilled engineers due to retire within the coming years, attracting and retaining these talented individuals is critical if the industry is to continue meeting our global energy needs.

My Perspective

After writing this article, I’ve become aware of challenges that may [potentially] lie ahead for me. That being said, I’ve gained a unique perspective of the truth about women in the oil and gas industry and I’ll be the first to say that regardless of the obstacles we may face, I am optimistic. I’m in the second year of my career, and for the past year I’ve had excellent first-hand experience working in this industry for a successful woman-owned company. I’m always given the opportunity to be challenged and grow as a female business professional. I’ve learned about the progressive changes and milestones the company has witnessed and have seen the success earned by those who work hard and earn their recognition given the right opportunities and by taking chances. I truly believe that there is no limit as to how far up the figurative career ladder women will be able to climb. Given the right opportunities, women in this industry have the chance to become pioneers and powerhouses.

Our 18-year passion for excellence isn’t our own – in fact, many of our peers also believe in equal opportunities for men & women alike in the industry. Even some of our biggest clients have a strong bias for action when it comes to placing talented individuals in high-level positions, pushing all gender divides aside and raising the bar for generations ahead. In the past year, what I’ve gathered is that it’s obvious the glass ceiling has clearly been broken.

Here are a few questions that came to mind for the readers:

  • Having read this article, which point of concern do you believe is most important to address?
  • Do you agree that the opportunities for women will continue to grow as predicted?
  • What other obstacles do you foresee other than the ones discussed?
  • What does this forecast mean to female professionals in oil & gas?

Amal Abdallah is a communications professional with a forte in marketing and thought leadership for the Oil & Gas Industry. To contact Amal with any questions or comments, please send an email to amal.abdallah@clovergs.com.