Gender Bias in Oil and Gas Addressed in Gulf Coast Section Women-in-Energy Event
To promote gender diversity in the upstream oil and gas industry, the SPE Women in Energy (WIN) Standing Committee was formed in 2016. The vision of the committee is to empower women to realize their full potential in the industry. The SPE Gulf Coast Section (GCS) WIN Committee was launched in 2018 to further support the mission within the section. The committee hopes to carry this vision forward through its events, mainly its highly anticipated SPE GCS WIN Congress held each year.
The inaugural SPE GCS WIN event was held in January 2019. A single-day event focused on the central theme of “Playing to WIN,” the congress engaged both men and women in addressing gender-gap challenges in the energy industry and identified actions to overcome them. The event hosted talks by highly reputed professionals from the industry, a panel of men advocating for women in energy, a panel of female professionals at various stages of their career who shared their experiences and insights, and breakout forum sessions on the following topics:
- Leadership focus. Preparing for a board position
- Getting comfortable with negotiation
- Stepping into a new role as a young professional
- The new age of startups
- Perspectives from other industries
The inaugural congress received positive reviews, leaving an invaluable impression on all 250 men and women who attended. The expert-led discussions helped encourage teams of men and women to improve diversity in leadership roles, eliminate wage gaps, include a broader spectrum of ideas and cultures, and hire the best qualified workforce.
In preparation of the first congress, the SPE GCS WIN Committee held a survey on gender-gap challenges in the energy industry. Approximately 250 respondents (28% men and 72% women) participated in the survey. The results are as follows:
Does Gender Bias Exist?
When asked if gender bias exists in the workplace, 50% of men and 90% of women believed it does, 25% of men and 4% of women believed it does not, and the rest were unsure (Fig 1).
Are Companies Attempting to Rectify Gender Bias?
While a little over half of the men who took the survey felt that companies are working to rectify the gender gap, 63% of women respondents believed they are not. (Fig. 2). When asked if they thought women could hold any job, 65% of men and 47% of women agreed that they could.
Among those in technical positions, 55% of men and 55% of women saw themselves long-term in a managerial role, while 23% of men and 31% of women saw themselves staying in a technical role.
The real-time survey held during the event noted “exclusion” and “politics” as the biggest obstacles to increasing participation of women in the industry and engaging more women as senior leaders in the industry. There was no doubt that attendees of the 2019 Congress walked away with the central notion that a change was paramount in the oil and gas industry, and that both genders and all seniority levels have a part to play in reshaping the industry’s current culture towards women for the better.
Key discussion takeaways from the congress were
- Creating more opportunities overall for women while recognizing companies at the forefront of this initiative who are leading by example
- Embracing challenge and risk with courage by acknowledging emotions, so a self-plan can be created to face those difficulties without fear
- Refusing to accept the status quo regarding a woman’s performance ability
- Meeting opportunity with a high-performance to succeed, with the understanding that influence is a learned skill built on relationships and one’s ability to uncover their authentic self
Following the success of the inaugural event, two luncheons and an annual conference are planned for the 2019-2020 period. A lunch-and-learn focusing on “Effective Negotiation” was held in the fall of 2019. More than 40 professionals attended the event. Establishing trust with one’s negotiating party, understanding cultural differences, and having clarity on what one is trying to achieve were identified as the main insights. Most importantly, one must be able to achieve a fine balance between a tactful demeanor with deliberate demands, while being relatable to the other party, in order to negotiate effectively. It is a valuable skill that can be learned and must be practiced. The spring Lunch and Learn will be held in May.
The second SPE GCS WIN Congress will be held on 31 January in Houston on the theme “Innovate, Integrate, Inspire.” Amy Myers Jaffe, co-chair of Center on Global Energy Policy's Women in Energy Steering Committee, and David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment and director of the Energy Security and Climate Change program at the Council on Foreign Relations, will deliver a keynote on “Global Energy Dynamics and Drivers for Advancement.” Five breakout sessions will be held on the topics of taking risk, flexible work, career development, preparing to enter the industry, and leadership. A poster and networking session in the morning and inspirational talks on personal success stories and ways to address unconscious bias in the afternoon will also be held.
In response to last year’s success, the 2020 Congress is planned for an increased audience of 300 attendees. The full program and registration information can be accessed here.
We request readers to take the following survey on diversity and inclusion. The results and insights of the survey will be presented at the 2020 Congress.