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Bridging the oil and gas gender gap

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In its survey of 272 female engineers, NES says 75 per cent felt they were welcome to enter the oil and gas industry as a professional – but 45 per cent said that it wasn’t necessarily that easy: they expected it to be harder to find support once they got a job because they were women.

Why? Oil and gas is an industry that’s been slow to change, retaining many traditional elements that give it the perception, at least, of being male-dominated. This means more men in managerial and engineering positions, and still substantial negative ideas about the industry for women. A female engineer within the report said: “I would support a female who had decided it’s what they wanted to do. However, I would also point out that it can be very hard and very lonely.”

NES advocates ‘creative’ methods of attracting women to the industry – but perhaps it’s really in need of a sea-change?

Dennis Clark, the Chairman of the OGN Group, an engineering and construction solutions provider for oil and gas companies, says in his eyes employment opportunities are changing – but it requires the industry to update itself and its image.

“This was a male-dominated industry in terms of opportunity […] recruitment and selection. However, there’s a real commitment by the industry to get women involved; to make them actually aware that it’s an industry worth making a career in.”

He says that the industry’s adherence to tradition has slowed down its progress, but that recent initiatives like those from Oil and Gas UK should change that. The latter company have reported that they are currently setting up initiatives to bring in more female talent, and their special focus is on the offshore sector which, due to its isolation, can be intimating to a minority of any cloth.

Clark says there are two ways that the industry can change in the near future. One: by dismantling traditional biases, as well as making it known that perceptions of the oil and gas industry as a ‘boy’s club’ are false. “We need to broaden out the opportunities to the full cross-section of the community of employable people, and make it known that we have a broad church here.”

The second is to take advantage of the current shortage of engineers in the oil and gas industry – Clark believes this is in part due to it now being seen as a ‘dirty’ industry, thanks to green campaigns – and encourage companies to reach out to female graduates who might be on the fence about a career there.

But Clark, speaking for OGN, notes proudly that, in a lot of places, women are making up an increasing number of middle-management positions. This means in the next few years that they will occupy very senior roles and further help to change perceptions of women in oil and gas.

However, he maintains that if change is going to happen: it needs to be a conscious initiative from industry incumbents. 

The oil and gas industry is just one of the many out there – like the technology sector – whose image as a male-dominated profession creates a sense that women who want to take it up as a career might be excluded. There’s a sense of determination from companies like OGN and Oil and Gas UK to make it more inclusive that suggests this gap will be closed before too long.

Is your business an industrial success story? Enter the Made in Britain category of this year’s Growing Business Awards. Nominations are open now and will close on the 19th September. For more information and to submit your free nomination, visit the Growing Business Awards site.

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