By Rubi Alvarado – General Manager, Energy Capital
A male-dominated industry
Men have historically led the energy sector. In the mid-nineteenth century, in the early years of the modern oil & gas industry, several companies looked after physically resilient and strong people to employ. Accordingly, the nature of these jobs mainly demanded physical-capacity features in their workers.
As a result, several men were hired for arduous physical labor, such as manual drilling and monitoring. They were also occupied as field front-liners (onshore and offshore), frequently under extreme weather conditions.
On the other hand, women were supposed to stay at home doing non-paid caregiving labors – usually seen as non-risky and non-profitable compared to the male-oriented ones.
For women coming from poverty backgrounds, the transition to the industry happened first, but indeed, out of necessity. Events such as economic downturns, wars, and structural male unemployment incentivized this trend.
However, the female entry into the energy labor market didn’t translate into companies supporting women with equal parental leave permits or work-life flexibility schemes.
Later on, the lack of access to education and training for women in the industry further elongated this diversity gap. Compared to men, females could not go to school and freely follow a professional career until not so long ago.
More gender biases
This, joint with a gendered-biased approach in the academic field, where men were supposedly better than women in STEM disciplines, significantly undermined our progress towards reaching leading positions in the sector for several years.
However, and fortunately for us, we are now in the twenty-first century, with many structural and consciousness transformations preceding us. The way we work and see most of the industries has changed, and we as women have raised our voices and come together to be more visible and better positioned worldwide.
Nevertheless, diversity has to be more emphatic in the energy industry because the challenges are still many. For instance, some disadvantages directly affecting us are the global gender pay gap, the lack of long-term career opportunities and work-life balance schemes, gender disparity in work teams, among several other factors.
Another example is that, nowadays, only a third of North American students in STEM fields; and 22% of workers in the oil and gas sector are females. According to experts, if the current inequality rate persists, it will take 70 years to reach parity in the energy sector. Even more, to achieve pay parity standards.
The importance of diversity and inclusion
I want to emphasize that it is not about fulfilling positions with a specific number of women to cover quotas; we have to be considered for our capacities and job skills. However, this won’t be possible if we don’t have equal access to education. Also, to training, mentorship, and fair retributions since our youngest years.
As a proud supporter of all women in the sector, I think it’s crucial to keep breaching the gaps. Furthermore, to raise female participation visibility in all spheres. Finally, I want to conclude that If we’re going to address an energy transition, we should look after diversity and inclusion inside our sector. Transitioning from a female caregiver and male breadwinner model into a diversity one; that’s the kind of transformation we’re all looking for.