Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Tackling the oil and gas gender gap needs to be more just than promoting pictures of women in hard hats

NES Global Talent’s recent report highlighting the key challenges women face in the oil and gas industry and flagging ways to tackle the gender gap is worth a second look at today as the UK celebrates National Women in Engineering Day.

An NES Global Talent survey reveals that:

  • 75% of women feel welcome working in the oil and gas industry yet almost half (45%) believe they do not get the same recognition as their male colleagues.
  • 95% believe mentors are important for career advancement in the oil and gas industry yet 42% said they were neither a mentor nor a mentee.
  • Over four fifths (82%) of respondents plan to stay in the oil and gas industry for the next 2 - 5 years.

NES Global Talent’s recent report highlighting the key challenges women face in the oil and gas industry and flagging ways to tackle the gender gap is worth a second look at today as the UK celebrates National Women in Engineering Day.

The report ‘Attracting and retaining women in oil and gas engineering – a survey examining the gender talent gap’, highlights the myriad of pathways women are taking to find careers in oil and gas, underscoring the excellent opportunities the sector has to cross-train from ancillary industries as well as non-traditional disciplines. In fact, 44% of respondents stated that they had worked in different industries such as building and construction and even law and retail, before moving into oil and gas.

The report also shows that in order to attract and retain female workers, the industry needs to improve its ability to provide mentorship, recognise workers equally and highlight the benefits of studying STEM subjects in schools and universities. 

Rebecca Ridley, Associate Director – UK Client Development at NES Global Talent, said: “National Women in Engineering Day is about celebrating the great opportunities for women in engineering at a time when it has never been more important to address skills shortages. The encouraging news is that the vast majority of female employees do feel welcome in the sector and say they would recommend a career in oil and gas engineering to others. Yet 45% say they do not get the same recognition as men. It is crucial that this issue is better managed if the sector is to become more attractive to women. Many respondents said they are paid less, have fewer opportunities than their male counterparts and have to work harder than men to prove themselves. There are clear improvements to be made, if the oil and gas sector is to attract larger numbers of female engineers in the future." 

Dawn Bonfield, Executive Vice President of Women's Engineering Society (WES), the organisers of National Women in Engineering Day, said: “Currently just under 10% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female. Breaking that down further, only about half (51%) of female STEM graduates actually go on to work in STEM roles, compared with over two thirds (68%) of male STEM graduates. We need to step up promotion to make it clear that engineering offers just as much for women as it does for men.  By encouraging girls into engineering careers we will not only be increasing diversity and inclusion – a business imperative – but enabling us to fill the substantial future job opportunities that have been predicted in this sector.

”We are really pleased that NES Global Talent and many other companies who work to improve gender diversity in the engineering sector are celebrating this inaugural day, and we hope that through focusing attention on the issues that exist we can work together to make the engineering sector a more inclusive sector for women to work.”

Some 95% of respondents to the survey see mentors as important for career advancement, but 42% are not involved in any form of mentoring. In line with many other sectors and roles, the implementation of formal mentoring programmes would be an important step in supporting the most talented women engineers.  This would enable them to progress to senior positions in the oil and gas industry and, in doing so, become the role models of tomorrow.

Commenting on NES Global Talent’s report, Averil Macdonald, Professor of Science Engagement at the University of Reading who sits on the board of WISE, states that creative recruitment techniques executed with women in mind will also help with attraction. “Oil and gas sector companies should focus on engaging with young women both at school and at university, providing role models and an opportunity for young women to see for themselves what the sector has to offer through visits and paid internships.  This will ensure that oil and gas companies lead the way amongst engineering employers in benefiting from the untapped talent of those female engineers whose skills will, otherwise, be recognised and rewarded elsewhere,” she said.