To begin with, the employment of women in male-dominated industries has increased exponentially over the last several decades. However, the fact remains that this achievement does come with its own set of challenges.There are several obstacles that women face as they attempt to climb the business hierarchy in their field of expertise. Due to the diverse range of skills that the renewable energy and the oil and gas industry have to offer, the possibilities looking into the future for successful women in the energy industry are endless.
Over the past few decades, there has been a huge gap in the trainings, workshops, and capacity building opportunities offered to women as opposed to men. As a result, men were able to develop and enhance their skills and knowledge whilst also being provided with the necessary tools to succeed in their respective industries. In fact, the gap in opportunities available for women to develop themselves became a more pressing concern over time. With companies trying to diversify gender in the work place, hiring women became a necessity as opposed to an added bonus. This has proven to be true, especially in the renewable energy industry, with the oil and gas industry catching up not too far behind.
However, this has changed dramatically over time. According to IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the renewable energy industry and the oil and gas industry workforce is composed of nearly 32% and 22% women, respectively. Additionally, IRENA had also taken note of the fact that while women under the umbrella of the energy industry mostly work in administrative related jobs, their contribution to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)fields will continue to increase overtime and impact the conventional methods initially set by their male counterparts in the industry.
According to a recent study conducted by McKinsey, in the oil and gas industry, it was found that only one-third of international companies have employed women in managerial roles. Yet, it was discussed among various companies in the industry that, by 2030, the number of women participating in the industry is expected to double (when compared to rates in 2018). At the moment, however, it was observed that the downstream companies have almost triple the total number of women in managerial roles when compared to oil field service companies; thus, encouraging oil field service companies to bridge the gap by carrying out the necessary measures and offering the essential development tools to encourage women to succeed in the field. This, of course, comes with its own set of challenges and benefits. Fatouma Hanini, Business Development Consultant, noted that, “The transition poses unprecedented challenges in the history of energy. It calls for innovation and the implementation of multiple technological and societal solutions. But, as in all fields, a gender balance can stimulate innovation and change. The diversity of ideas and genders is, therefore, a necessary and desirable asset for the success of energy challenges; not to mention an obvious equity with regard to women.”
Challenges and Benefits
Furthermore, it was found that the participation and contribution of women in the energy industry is piloted by three main challenges. The first challenge involves energy accessibility; this means that in areas where clean and accessible energy is readily available, women are more likely to participate in the industry. The second challenge relates to the fact that the career networks for women are not as broad as those for men; thus, limiting women’s reach for opportunities in the industry. Finally, the third challenge – and, potentially, the most important – is the lack of mentoring and training offered to women to bridge the gap between them and their male counterparts who have been guided and trained at all stages in their careers.
In overcoming these main challenges, with time and the proper tools implemented, the technical, social and economic impacts of women in the workplace will be sure to bring about innovative ideas and successes to the energy industry. Eman Adel, Renewable Energy Expert, noted that “It’s quite obvious that culture and social norms is one of the main struggles that women faced in the industrial sector as the community doesn’t believe that women are physically capable for such sector, the STEM subjects are masculine topics and that women’s ability is innately inferior to that of men. The perception of women less effectiveness without any real facts, studies or evidence on such a theory!”
At the same time, there are several benefits that have already been attained, both in the renewable energy industry and in the oil and gas industry. For example, having a diverse team of professionals promotes enhanced collaboration and communications skills among work-related concerns. Additionally, women would be able to offer innovative solutions, approaches and inputs from a different perspective, especially in male-dominated industries. It is also important to note that the more women are placed in senior level positions, the more the gap is bridged in terms of skill development and mentoring in the energy industry. In fact, Adel also mentioned that the “establishment of appropriate policies and regulations of gender equality is very important for empowering women in the industrial sector, but self-perception of women is the main key to achieve that.”
In conclusion, in the oil and gas industry as well as the renewable energy industry, by focusing on certain aspects and obstacles that could be overcome, diversity could be achieved much sooner and at a smoother transition than expected. To summarize, the overall success of having qualified and professional women involved in such demanding fields is predetermined by the necessary measures taken to eliminate or mitigate the challenges; these challenges could be summarized to include bridging the learning gap, eliminating societal notions, enhancing technical skills through necessary trainings and courses as well as developing a network of professional women to be mentored and eventually mentor future prospects. In doing so, women’s achievements will impact the industry for the greater good, in all roles in the energy industry.