Career Development

Making Gender Diversity a Reality in the Oil and Gas Industry

The SPE Women in Energy committee works to create opportunities for women to enable them to step into leadership roles and pursue their career goals.

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Big! That’s how I describe the movement SPE has initiated to support women.

Despite the great strides made toward gender equality over the last century, there are still many areas where women are under-represented in the workforce of the oil and gas industry. Therefore, the SPE Board of Directors granted approval for a standing committee to address this crucial issue. The SPE Women in Energy (WIN) committee was formed in 2016 and serves to promote gender diversity in the exploration and production (E&P) industry.

WIN is part of a societal shift, and with the huge transformation that’s happening globally toward gender equality, we need to ensure SPE women members understand some of the myths behind becoming a leader. WIN works to create opportunities for women to enable them to step into leadership roles and pursue their career goals.

Professionals in the E&P industry supporting diversity—that is what WIN is all about. We have created a strong program to promote and empower diversity within SPE, from entry into the field through retirement.

WIN’s charter focuses on improving diversity starting from primary school through executive management:

  • Attracting/recruiting women into the STEM field. SPE will help to attract and educate young women about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and opportunities in the energy industry by working with the Energy4me program.
  • Female leadership/representation. Partner with the Emerging Leaders Alliance program to ensure greater diversity of SPE-funded delegates, and work with event committees during the speaker selection process to identify more women for panel sessions, presentations, and workshops.
  • Section/chapter initiatives. Recruit leaders to represent WIN throughout SPE’s global sections and focus on diversity networking events and programs. [We specifically need leaders to set up local WIN committees within their home sections.]
  • Education and outreach. Partner with leading experts in diversity to provide resources to WIN members and the greater SPE community.

In short, the committee wants to help people from all career levels, cultures, and languages as they climb the corporate ladder. WIN’s goal is to encourage more women to practice leadership through SPE and witness women blossom into amazing leaders.
“We have a strong group of advisory members who support and sponsor our efforts, elite women from the majority of SPE disciplines to help guide and mentor our WIN committee,” said Maggie Seeliger, senior vice president, strategy and marketing, oil and gas, at SNC-Lavalin, and WIN standing committee advisor. “We now have members in Australia, India, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Poland, and the US, among others.” WIN teams have high diversity regarding location, age, and experience level.

Around the world, the energy industry is one of the most gender-imbalanced sectors; it is still considered as one of the industries with lowest diversity according toForbesmagazine. We are not using the full talents of the population, meaning that when it comes to making the decisions that impact our world, women are not at the table.

How To Get Involved

Your first exposure to WIN may have been at the 2017 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) when we conducted our first special session, “Own Your Future.”

Melody Meyer (right), keynote speaker,and attendees at the Women in Energyspecial session at 2017 ATCE.

Several initiatives have been started since and we are eagerly planning this year’s special session at 2018 ATCE: “Diversity: Fueling the Oil and Gas Future.” The event will focus on how gender diversity, as well as other types of diversity, makes the industry more dynamic, innovative, and resilient. Planned activities include a keynote delivered by a female energy executive, a panel discussing case studies and lessons learned from gender diversity initiatives at specific companies, and small group discussions on some of today’s most important issues related to women in the workplace. Women and men are encouraged to join the conversation.

This year, the committee also expanded its structure by adding new subcommittees for public relations and social media for better and wider reach globally. WIN also plans to host quarterly webinars covering topics related to diversity, promoting women in the oil and gas industry, dual careers, and life and career balance.

WIN has documented a program that can be replicated globally called “A Day in the Life of an Engineer.” Started last year in Lagos, Nigeria, this event helps university students to pursue subjects in the STEM field. Through these in-person engagements, students can start to understand expectations that come with individual roles in the industry and expand their technical understanding of the E&P industry. The conversations can help students in their decisions about career choices as they transition from university to the industry.

This program can also be tailored to pre-university students who will benefit from greater exposure to science and engineering. The interactions with industry professionals can help school students understand how science concepts are applied in the real world, which will help spark an affinity for STEM-related fields. For more information on running A Day in the Life of an Engineer program, visit the Women's Network blog on SPEConnect.

Diversity and equality are what SPE WIN stands for. As former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan said, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.”

To get involved with the WIN committee, write to or visit the Women's Network group on SPEConnect.

Social media handles: 

Twitter: @spe_win

[The article was sourced from the author by TWA Adviser Amber Sturrock.]