Women in Energy – Fiona MacAulay
Women in Energy
by Fiona MacAulay
When you are planning a well, it is a complex and expensive business, with many moving parts and subtle shifts as your understanding of the opportunity evolves and preparations progress. When considering the resources available to you – industrial or financial, the first thing you absolutely would not do is cast aside nearly 50 per cent of them and plough on with the diminished capital and equipment available to you. So it makes no sense whatsoever when the industry is considering its long-term future, not least in the light of the challenges presented by climate change, to do the same with a huge potential chunk of its current and future workforce. Or, to call this chunk by another name; women.
When I started out in the oil industry in the 1980’s, I was frequently the only woman working in a technical role, irrespective of whether in the office or on a rig in the North Sea. I am pleased to report that things have changed a lot as it’s now common to see highly qualified female geologists or engineers working in various roles in the industry, whether on or offshore. It’s also fair to say that the industry still has a long way to go to achieve anything like a gender balance in the workforce, particularly in senior executive roles. The 2018 Global Energy Talent Index (GETI), surveying over 20,000 professionals globally, highlighted a mere 11% female representation in the energy industry. This imbalance can’t be good for the long-term future of the industry. One of the best things about working in our industry is the opportunity to work globally with people from a vast swathe of geographies, disciplines and ethnicities, so I find it doubly disappointing that the diversity we see in the workplace, from a geographic perspective, is not matched by more gender balance in the workforce.
Recognising that our industry would benefit from a greater diversity of skills, expertise and approaches to problem-solving is crucial. Without this diversity, the oil and gas industry will lack the innovation required to both capitalise on the opportunities which exist at present that will help us navigate the eventual shift to a low carbon economy in the future.
So what can we do to boost female participation in our industry? For me there are two important steps – first of all, CEOs and senior executives need to acknowledge the importance of diversity so that an inclusive company culture comes from the top. Secondly we need to look at what’s putting women off either joining the oil industry in the first place (or, even as a first staging post, pursuing qualifications that might lead them in that direction) or driving them to exit the industry at a higher rate than their male counterparts and then address these issues. For me, the re-entry of our skilled female workforce post-career break into positions that don’t negate the additional skills developed during that break (for example: toddler negotiation skills) is a key driver to addressing that balance. At Echo we recognise this and have a positive engagement with our workforce to enable flexible working for both men and women to enable work-life balance.
This industry has provided me with an enormously varied and rewarding career and I have no doubt that other women in the industry feel the same way. We need to do whatever we can to make sure that the corporate culture of the energy industry is such that more women are encouraged to join the industry on graduation and, once they have joined our industry, we need to help women to progress through their careers to achieve senior positions within companies.
Fiona is proudly part of the Global Female Influences in Energy by Women’s Energy Council