Women in the Gas Industry – Looking Ahead

Marius Popescu

March 1, 2017

International Women´s Day is coming up on the 8th of March. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the IGU’s research and activities dedicated to women in the workforce. This theme was central to the IGU task force on Human Resources during the past triennium. The task force has now changed the name (Workforce development) and is currently researching best practices for workforce development, but the findings on women in the gas industry continue to be supported by newer research from other organizations.

At the WGC 2015 in Paris, the IGU presented the conclusions of its research on women in the gas industry. The debate was opened by quoting Mr Getachew Engida, then Deputy Director General of UNESCO who stated “No country can afford to ignore 50% of its human resources”. The IGU added, “Neither can the gas industry!”

Attracting women to the industry has been both a challenge and a priority for gas companies. Nevertheless, the IGU research conducted on the topic shows that the gas industry remains a male-dominated industry where 3 out of 4 employees are men and where more than half the gas companies globally employ over 95% male managers. Furthermore, not only do women account for a reduced percentage of the gas industry’s workforce, but they also tend to work mostly in support/ non-technical functions, while being largely underrepresented in executive positions.

At the same time, the IGU research shows that of the female professionals that work in the gas industry, the vast majority feel they can fulfill their career expectations within the gas sector. Furthermore, once they join, women tend to stay longer with their companies. The research found the attrition rate for female employees to be significantly lower as compared to their male colleagues, in all regions of the world.

These findings are supported by recent research. According to the Petersen Institute for International Economics, women account for only 11% of senior executive positions in the oil & gas industry. Furthermore, in a study conducted by EY, 61% of participants believe that gender diversity increases financial performance, whereas 77% of participants believe it influences nonfinancial performance. 

How much of a priority is workforce diversity in today’s industry? Generally, during times of economic downturn, industries, and energy companies are no exception, place a higher priority on cost containment and reduction. It is not unusual that the hiring of professionals is suspended for some time and this ‘stop-and-go’ approach is considered suboptimal.  The normal development and succession cycle of managerial and professional staff is impacted, particularly in environments that require longer development cycles. As the economies recover, we will enter a new cycle with a renewed focus on hiring and succession, and the industry will look to continue to rebalance the structure of its workforce, both organically and through external hiring.