Survey: Women confront barriers in oil and gas industry

WASHINGTON — Oil and gas companies trying to lure women into the industry have some work to do, according to a new report.

The analysis by NES Global Talent, released Wednesday, finds in a survey that while 75 percent of women feel welcome working in the oil industry, nearly half believe they don’t get the same recognition as male colleagues who dominate the field.

“There are clear improvements to be made, if the oil and gas sector is to attract larger numbers of female engineers,” said Neil Tregarthen, CEO of the recruiting firm that is based in Manchester, U.K., and has offices in Houston and more than two dozen countries. “Many respondents said they are paid less, have fewer opportunities than their male counterparts and have to work harder than men to prove themselves.”

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The survey was conducted of 272 female engineers registered with the jobs site OilCareers in December 2013. The survey respondents worked in more than 16 countries, with 13 percent coming from the United Kingdom, 8 percent coming from India, 6 percent from the U.S. And 6 percent from Canada. Nearly three quarters of them were between 25 and 44 years of age.

In anonymous comments, some of the survey participants said that women are generally welcomed in the industry where roughly 80 percent of the workforce is male. At least one observed that it is a great opportunity “to break barriers and stereotypes.”

“There have been occasions in the past – especially offshore – that I have felt regarded as a novelty and not taken seriously,” one respondent said anonymously. “People are usually surprised when they find out that I am an oil and gas engineer, both inside and out of the industry.”

Eight-nine percent of the survey respondents said they would encourage a female friend to pursue a career in oil and gas.

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“I would support a female who had already decided it was what they wanted to do,” said one anonymous survey taker. “However, I would also point out that it can be very hard and very lonely.”

Respondents who said they did not receive the same recognition for their work as male peers described feeling as if they must work harder to prove themselves or fight for offshore, out-of-the-office opportunities. One commenter suggested that females are sometimes viewed as having been hired “because the company wanted diversity.”

The document underscores that the oil and gas industry’s appeal crosses gender lines. Respondents said they were attracted to the sector because it offered varied work, travel opportunities and big workplace challenges.

Related story: Obama administration official says oil industry needs jolt of diversity

Tregarthen said the industry “needs to find creative ways to attract women” and should seek to lure those currently working in other industries. Broadly, the industry can tap into women’s networks and have positive role models give speeches at universities as a way to encourage more women to enter the sector, Tregarthen said.

“The industry needs to show that there is nothing stopping women with the right skills and qualifications from enjoying a successful engineering career,” he said.


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