Establishing gender equality within the oil and gas industry

The oil and gas industry has been traditionally male-dominated, but that may be set to change, according to the results of the inaugural Global Diversity and Inclusion report released by international oil and gas company BP and leading online industry resource Rigzone.

Although nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the 3,000 oil and gas professionals who took part in the study said they believed their industry was still male-dominated, 75 percent of respondents hailing from the United States said career prospects for women had improved in recent years, compared to 71 percent of participants from across the globe.

“In the U.S., women make up about half of the workforce, but that’s not yet true in oil and gas,” noted Paul Caplan, President of Rigzone, in a statement. “The industry offers tremendous programs to attract and retain talent, extensive global career opportunities, complex problems to solve and above average pay. Every professional wins if they consider an energy career.”

“While the industry acknowledges it still has work to do in terms of a gender balanced pool of talent, the results of this survey demonstrate that industry initiatives and programs to engage women about careers in oil and gas are making an impact and we need to keep focused for them to continue to do so,” added Kirsty Bashforth, Group Head of Organizational Effectiveness at BP.

Barriers impeding gender equality

That said, women eager to break into the sector still face some significant barriers, the survey found. Some of the most prevalent challenges pointed to by respondents included gender-based discrimination within the industry, a lack of qualified candidates, family care responsibilities and societal conditioning. Executives eager to ameliorate gender inequality within their oil and gas companies might want to consider offering flexible working arrangements, childcare benefits, mentoring opportunities and pay transparency, as well as putting together formal strategies to bolster female representation.

The education system must also play its part by focusing on implementing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs to help American students become more proficient and enthused about related careers. Indeed, the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment revealed that students in the U.S. ranked below the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development average for developed countries in high school math and science.

Although some aspects, such as high school education, are out of industry executives’ control, there is much they can do to cultivate gender equality within their firms and the sector as a whole.

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