Girl power has been hitting the headlines here in the UK over the last few months, and not just because the Spice Girls have confirmed that they are ‘reuniting’ to work on new projects (so far, no news on a potential new album or world tour – sorry Spice fans). February 2018 marked 100 years since the Representation of People Act 1918 was passed in the UK, which allowed (some) women to vote for the first time. The law change followed years of campaigning, most notably from the suffragettes of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was formed in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst.
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However, it wasn’t until the outbreak of the First World War that perceptions of the role of women in British society really started to change. During the war years, approximately 2 million women replaced men in employment, and proved that they could do the work just as well. In turn, the UK government promised to give women the right to vote when the war finished.
Despite this indisputable progress, women in the UK still did not have the same voting privileges as men until the signing of the Equal Franchise Act in 1928. And women’s fight for social equality continues to this day, both in the UK and across the world.
Our industry is not immune to the challenge. A collaborative report from the World Petroleum Council and The Boston Consulting Group suggests that women represent just one-fifth of employees in the oil and gas industry – a significantly smaller share of the workforce than they do in almost any other sector.1 The report also found that a disproportionately large number of these women work in office roles, rather than technical and upper management positions. The consequences, according to the report, are threefold. Firstly, oil and gas companies have to choose from a smaller number of highly qualified candidates when hiring, as women drop out of the industry prematurely or never join in the first place. Secondly, companies are missing out on numerous benefits that companies with larger percentages of female employees enjoy, such as higher quality of teamwork, diversity of perspectives, and creativity when solving technical and business problems. And finally, the industry’s reputation for lacking gender diversity creates a vicious circle, as it ultimately deters women from pursuing a career in oil and gas, making it increasingly difficult for companies to recruit women across the board.
The report offers a number of recommendations to help strengthen the inflow of women into the oil and gas sector, maintain their job satisfaction mid-career, and increase women’s representation at the top of the industry. I would encourage our readers to read the entire report for more information (the URL is available at the bottom of this page). While it is accepted that attracting and retaining greater numbers of women will pose challenges for the industry, these must be overcome to ensure that the industry can reap the rewards of gender balance in the near future.
1. RICK, K., MARTÉN, I., and VON LONSKI, U., ‘Untapped Reserves: Promoting Gender Balance in Oil and Gas’, World Petroleum Council and The Boston Consulting Group, (12 July 2017), https://www.bcg.com/publications/2017/energy-environment-people-organization-untapped-reserves.aspx