The Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS 2019) Women in Energy Conference, held on the third and last day of the Show, on February 13, promoted many important discussions on the evolving role of women in the oil and gas sector as well as the challenges they face during their careers.

During a panel discussion, Iman Hill, Chief Operating Officer at Energean Oil and Gas, stated that the percentage of girls taking up science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects is higher than ever. In Egypt, this percentage reaches 40%, compared to 32% in the US and Europe. However, social, cultural and structure barriers still make it hard for many of them to integrate male-dominated fields.

According to Sameh Sabry, General Manager at DEA, the reasons behind women choosing not to seek opportunities in the industry are not related to lack of interested, but instead to the industry’s bad reputation among women, which weakens their confidence to integrate the sector.

To attract talented women and achieve better inclusion, three angles need to be considered, according to Layla El Hares, General Manager Developments and Asset Manager at Shell Egypt. “The first is looking at a larger group. This ultimately upgrade the skill force you have. The second angle is diversity, “[men and women] are very different. If you add the female component, things will evolve and change,” she said.

The third angle is equality. “Gender equality today is not just a fundamental human right, it is essential for a peaceful role. The world has changed from 20 years ago to now; females are equally responsible for sustaining their families, the same as what men do,” which is why women need to have access to job opportunities with good income, El Hares added.

Moreover, “after getting women into the workforce, [retaining them] is a matter of how to develop them. So, mentoring is very important,” Pam Darwin, President of ExxonMobil Exploration in Africa said.

Salma Al Hajeri, Director Reservoir Engineering at Mubadala Petroleum, recounted her story as a young girl pursuing a job in the industry. According to her, she joined the oil and gas industry by accident. As an electrical engineer, she had no previous knowledge of the oil and gas industry. However, her company insisted on keeping her by putting career development plans and even changing some of the policies in order to fit her position. Al Hajeri’s story illustrates the importance of adapting to female employees and investing in their skills.

The conference was officially concluded with the Women in Energy Awards ceremony, which recognized female role models and the effort of companies in promoting diversity.