By Byrony Coan – Director, Opportune LLP
Even as companies have put forth an effort to hire more women, they’re still challenged in retaining female employees. But women who demonstrate their expertise in their field are in high demand in the energy industry right now. Why? Because I’ve seen it firsthand.
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I grew up in an oil and gas family. Indeed, my dad worked on offshore rigs and later became a leader in wellhead safety/ blowout certification. After the 1980s, I was aware of the inherent cyclical nature of oil and gas. Thus, I chose to pursue a STEM major (mechanical engineering) to give myself as many options as possible. Beginning in college, I was conscious of the small percentage of women in my major.
I have, however, been relatively surprised that post-college—working for both an oil and gas software company and now an energy business advisory firm— leadership roles held by women (particularly middle to senior management); far exceed the percentage I would’ve guessed based on my college experience.
CHANGING TIMES FOR WOMEN
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S., the world seemingly went virtual overnight. Accordingly, our work life and home life became intertwined. Candidly, at the outset of the pandemic, things were a mess. Hence, everyone had distractions— kids, dogs, deliveries, you name it. However, what I thought would frustrate people working remotely really became a bonding experience as everyone was in a similarly stressful situation.
In fact, I was fortunate to be staffed on a long- term software implementation project during the entire pandemic. Luckily, we kicked the project off in person and had already forged relationships with the client. When we went virtual, we all knew it would be a challenge, but we had a pretty strong foundation for the project team already developed.
However, what I think the industry missed out on during the pandemic was the in-person interaction and mentoring that comes along with industry events. Thus, the option to attend conferences remotely was a welcome option, but it didn’t fully fill the void and value that in-person networking brings.
Because my children are teenagers and relatively self-sufficient, I counted myself lucky when I commiserated with my female colleagues. For instance, I witnessed that a lot of the daytime childcare, meals, and crisis school responsibilities naturally gravitated towards working moms. Conversely, I serve several clients whose wives gave birth during the pandemic and, because they were working from hom; were able to be a little flexible with schedules and give their partner some time to rest and recuperate.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS, NETWORKS ARE IMPORTANT
Beyond the historical networking events, there have been many networking opportunities, specifically within the women’s community. Currently, diversity and inclusion are hot topics with boards and investors since recent studies show that diverse management teams are more successful. Whether it’s Kayo, Women’s Energy Network (WEN), fishbowl communities, or others, there are far more opportunities for mentorship than there were when I first entered the industry 20 years ago.
In brief, I firmly believe more women have risen into leadership during that time and have grown the population of mentors for others. Whether your passion is engineering, geology, finance, accounting, information technology, law, or politics, the energy industry is dynamic and challenging and has something to offer.
Therefore, my advice to women joining the industry would be to be humble and build a personal group of career coaches; for instance, a good mix of peers, supervisors, and executives. Finallt, bottom line: regardless of gender (though that can help when discussing gender-relevant topics), make sure it’s people you respect, trust, and value as part of your circle of influence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Byrony Coan is a Director in Opportune LLP’s Upstream Transactional Advisory group. Byrony has over 20 years of experience in project management, oil and gas software; also product management, process consulting, and change management. In addition, she has upstream oil and gas subject matter expertise; for instance, ranging from operations through the value chain to financial reporting. Byrony leads teams that support asset transactions (buy-side or sell-side) and the associated organizational and process adoption. Her client base has ranged from start-up companies to small independents to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to joining Opportune; Byrony worked with an upstream software company to coordinate an active user community to develop back-office software solutions.