Azza Kamel, Chairman Assistance for Exploration at Wasco Petroleum Company, went through a number of prejudices in her career before reaching her current position. Graduated from the Faculty of Science, her experience started 34 years ago at Khalda Petroleum Company as a geologist working in the Western Desert. Azza told Egypt Oil & Gas that, at that time, she received a very long and confusing title to mask her position as a female geologist. Years later, when she applied to a management position in another company, she found resistance from the staff who did not admit a female to be hired to analyze and manage their work. She then returned to Khalda and worked at different departments as her career progressed, subsequently joining Wasco.
Azza has contributed to many discoveries throughout her career. Her impressive portfolio led her to be the first female Exploration General Manager in Egypt before being appointed for her current position. On the third edition of the Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS 2019), Azza received another recognition by winning the Women in Leadership Award at EGYPS Women in Energy Awards ceremony, which took place on February 13. Egypt Oil & Gas had the pleasure to talk to her and learn more about her journey in the oil and gas sector and her views on female participation.
In your opinion, what is the reason behind the decline of female representation in middle and top-management positions? How could oil and gas companies address this issue?
I think the reason for the low representation of women in the senior and middle management positions in the oil sector is the reluctance of women to enter this field, considering that it is restricted to men only, and due to the challenges and difficulties facing women to work in some areas of fields during drilling operations. I think oil and gas companies should contribute to training women and providing them with more opportunities to prove their efficiency and capability, and not focus solely on their gender.
I also think that one of the reasons for the low representation of women in the sector is some of the customs and traditions pushing women to prefer easier fields of study and easier jobs without so many challenges. Oil companies can overcome this by presenting models of success in the sector to students in schools and universities, in order to motivate more girls to delve into all fields. Exploration is restricted to men only, and the biggest evidence supporting this is that my promotion to be my company’s head of exploration was something that happened for the very first time in Egypt.
Could you tell us more about your personal experience towards a leading position in the sector? How have you overcome the challenges you faced?
I joined the oil sector in 1985, working at Khalda Petroleum Company. My career started with a job in database for one year. It was so difficult to work in a joint venture as a geologist at that time. I was appointed as geological and geophysical document specialist instead of being given a geologist title. After that, I proved my presence and worked too hard on computer management and training on exploration, geological and geophysical programs on MicroVAX. Subsequently, I got my Master’s degree in Petrophysics from Ain Shams University in 1997. I then moved to work in Khalda’s petrophysics department, focusing on prospects generation and field studies.
I have contributed to many discoveries with Khalda, such as Qasr, Tut, Hayat, Shams, Kenz, Salam, Tarek, and others. In 2003, I was honored by the Minister of Petroleum as best distinguished worker in the petroleum sector.
In 2008, I joined the work of Al-Wastani Petroleum Company and participated with my colleagues in many gas discoveries in Wasco fields, such as Faraskur, Balsam, Salma and Al-Wastani, and I proved my competence in department management, which prompted me to become Exploration General Manager and then Chairman Assistance for Exploration.
How would you compare the opportunities for female petroleum employees today to when you first joined the industry? What has changed and what are the drivers of this change?
In my opinion, there are currently great opportunities for women more than ever before, because there are successful models of many women who have proven their presence in all areas, especially technical fields. Of course, the climate has changed radically, and the motivation behind this is the constant encouragement by officials and the government, giving equal opportunities to men and women. The measure is efficiency, not gender, since God has given the intellect to each of us. We can definitely accomplish all the tasks required. Women have a great ability to analyze, multitask, and think about several subjects at the same time, and are able to manage any successful organization.
What is your advice for female employees to reach middle and top-management positions in the sector?
My advice for female employees is to master their work and overcome all the difficulties that exist until they reach the achievements that they are looking for.