Will It Take 132 Years To Reach Gender Parity Across The Oil & Gas Workplace?

Reaching gender parity across the workplace globally will take 132 years at the current rate of progress, according to the recent World Economic Forum report.

Since 2017, when the World Petroleum Council (WPC) and BCG first examined attitudes about gender balance the world has experienced significant disruptions. 

In addition to the severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global energy transition and the continued growth of digitization have accelerated both the need for and the pace of change.

In 2020, the percentage of women working in the oil and gas industry remains unchanged at 22%, the same level reported in 2017. The pandemic and associated oil price shock likely impacted progress, which underscored the need for continued focus, commitment, and action to improve diversity and inclusion within the oil and gas.

However, the number of D&I policies and programs introduced by organisations is up by about 50% since 2017, indicating that even though outcomes stalled, the commitment to act and lay foundations for future progress strengthened throughout the period. But how impactful are these programs if we aren’t seeing significant changes in the statistics that really matter? 

Persisting challenges

To attain gender parity and enhance diversity, there are still large disparities in policies and programs, and more needs to be done. Only about half of businesses tie leadership compensation to D&I objectives. And barely one-third have policies in place to guarantee “blind” screening of applicants in order to counteract unconscious prejudices on the part of hiring personnel, according to the World Petroleum Council (WPC) and BCG reports.

If oil and gas companies want to succeed in a data-driven, low-carbon environment, they must act quickly to increase workforce diversity and make it a strategic priority. This new world will demand creativity and variety. Which is necessary for innovation. ABN Resource’s “Diversity & Inclusion In The Downstream Oil Industry” report has found that companies with greater diversity outperform others on both innovation and financial performance.

To attract and retain a more diverse talent pool, companies need to adopt practical measures and must accelerate efforts to create an inclusive environment, something of growing importance for professionals in our industry

Historically, oil and gas companies have carried out quite straightforward and direct D&I projects to satisfy regional legal and regulatory requirements. Company executives and managers must use more impactful measures. We need to actively combat unconscious bias and make decisions that encourage diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, guidelines, and benefits offered to employees at all stages of their careers. Such initiatives necessitate a more conscientious and proactive strategy that is driven from the top and incorporates D&I ideals into all significant business operations.

We selected four challenges in Gender Equality that require especially urgent attention:

#1 Underrepresentation of women in entry-level jobs

While 44% of male and female STEM graduates and young professionals worldwide indicate an interest in working in the oil and gas industry, women occupy only about one-quarter of the industry’s entry-level positions

#2 Lack of women’s representation in technical, operations and expatriate positions

Women continue to be underrepresented in these areas, both of which are critical to improving a person’s promotion prospects. 

#3 Low female representation in senior roles

The proportion of women in senior-level decision-making positions is half that of women in mid-level positions, particularly in business and administration roles, where the numbers dropped from 26% in 2017 to 13% in 2020.

#4 Persistent unconscious biases around gender-­related challenges

Women and men still differ in their views about female career challenges, with a significant perception gap remaining in several areas. Men hold over four-fifths of decision-making senior and executive-level positions, increasing the risk that a lack of understanding of the actual barriers faced may negatively impact women’s prospects for advancement.

Some promising signs of positive progress

Although the oil and gas industry has some way to go on D&I, in recent years we have witnessed some positive signs that companies have taken action to support D&I. We covered the industry’s most active approach in our D&I report, which you can access for free, here.