Women fill nearly half of new oil industry jobs

The oil and gas business has been tapping unique groups to address its workforce crunch, turning  rocket scientists into petroleum engineers and making high-powered executives out of Gen Xers.

Now another demographic is growing its footprint in the historically male-dominated industry.

Women scored nearly half of  all new oil industry jobs during the first quarter of this year, according to Paul Caplan, president of Rigzone. It could signal a major turning point for an industry in which men make up about 80 percent of the workforce.

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In a recent interview with KUHF news, Caplan credited companies’ targeted recruiting programs for growing diversity in the energy industry workforce, though a recent report determined that some of Houston’s largest energy companies have fallen short in diversity efforts.

“If you look at the overall makeup of the professional workforce in the oil and gas industry, you see that only 18% of the industry itself is women,” he said. “So, that half of the hires in the first quarter were women is, I think, a sign that some of the programs that the major oil companies and service companies have been putting into play in terms of trying to attract more women to the industry is actually now taking hold.”

The oil industry’s payroll has been growing rapidly in recent years, as the North American shale boom caused drilling activity to spike. About 8,000 new jobs in oil and gas extraction have been created over the past year, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency estimates the sector employs about 193,200 people now.

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Pipeline transportation added 700 jobs over the past year, growing to a total 44,600 jobs now. And the petroleum and coal products manufacturing subsector, which includes oil refining, employs about 114,900 people , growing by 1,700 employees over the year.

CNN, which has profiled women in the oil industry, noted that they’re largely funneling into white-collar roles and desk jobs. But some are seeing the grittier part of the business, like  Ladean Brooks, a hydraulic fracturing equipment operator. You can see what she and other women have to say about working in a man’s world in this CNN video: