By Samar Samir
Pursuing a career in the oil and gas industry might seem challenging to women. The industry is known as male-dominated because of the weak representation of women, who also might find it difficult to get promoted as they were subject to the social paradigms that limit women to their role as caretakers of households and unable to be flexible with the work conditions of the sector. However, today, many cases proved that women are up to the challenging circumstances of the energy industries as their inclusion brings benefit to the institutions, they are part of.
The gender gap in the oil and gas sector is not a novel subject. The representation of women in the industry is rather weak and is a phenomenon of the industry worldwide. Women only represent 22% of the employees in the oil and gas industry worldwide. The widest gender gap across the globe is the MENA region.
In Egypt, the representation of women in the industry is not in any way different. According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, women represent 30% of the workforce in the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and the holding companies.
Accordingly, the international companies and the national companies adopt Egypt’s vision 2030 that aspires for inclusion and equality in the workplace. With the challenges faced by the industry, encouraging and enabling equality, diversity and inclusion became a business priority.
Benefits of women Inclusion
Why should companies invest in including women in the workplace? According to a Women Human Rights report under the title ‘Promoting Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Oil, Gas and Mining Extractive Industries,’ female inclusion promises better performance, a bigger pool of talents, and increased profitability. Companies with more women employees have better communications and are more able to solve technical problems. Research shows that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams by 35%.
Women approach information with different lenses than men which makes them more sensitive to details. Subsequently, this increases the team’s innovation. Additionally, gender-diverse boards of directors have better managing strategies and better execution of them. They are more likely to apply gender equality in the workplace. They enhance operational metrics including capability, leadership, motivation, coordination and control, innovation, and work environment which results in higher operating margins.
Studies revealed that companies with female directors in their boards have higher profit margins. This is reflected in the top 100 companies in the mining industry as they all have female directors and women in their boards as reported by The Advocates for Human Rights Minneapolis. The inclusion of women also develops sales revenues and share price. It has been found that companies with women in senior management “outperformed those with no women by 41% in terms of return on equity (22 % vs. 15 %), and by 56% in terms of operating results (17 % vs. 11 %).”
The aging petroleum workforce is another obstacle that can be stepped by empowering women and human capital. Depending on qualified women can help having new blood in the industry. Encouraging women to join the industry by setting good examples of successful female leaders in the field can increase and maintain individual talents. Needless to say that diverse teams lead to better customer experience. As women represent around 50% of any society, they bring a diverse understanding of customers’ needs and diverse techniques of approaching processes.
Egypt’s Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Vision
Based on the previous reasons, it’s worth for governments and different entities to invest in women inclusion in workplaces.
In alignment with the UN sustainability vision, the Egyptian oil and gas sector is taking steps towards a more inclusive work environment. Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El Molla, said in the ‘She is Energy’ webinar that “the role of women and their empowerment is an integral part of Egypt’s 2030 vision.” The Egyptian sustainability vision triggers economic and social justice in all fields. So, on an institutionalized level, several initiatives are at work to achieve equality and diversity in the sector’s companies.
Since 2017, women have had a dedicated day in the biggest petroleum conference in the region, the Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS). The day is mainly dedicated to raising awareness and promoting action to eliminate difficulties women may face in the sector. This consensus among the oil and gas industry’s leaders assures women that they are going to find equal opportunities and treatment. Furthermore, effort in this regard is being awarded in the Global Equality in Energy Awards Ceremony, and this year to further encourage diversity, an award for employer of the year championing inclusion, diversity and equality is added. This celebration of prominent female leaders aims to set role models for all the women who are seeking a job in oil and gas sector.
In order to put the conference results into action, the Ministry has established the equal opportunity unit. The unit reflects the cooperation between the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and the National Council for Women. This unit aims at improving the role of women and empowering them economically, socially and politically. It creates the necessary rules and training programs needed to ensure equal opportunities between genders.
The equal opportunity unit is not the only initiative concerned with improving women’s abilities and skills to keep pace with the work needs. Women represent 40% of the modernization project. The project’s seven pillars seek innovating and reforming Egypt’s the oil and gas sector.
Efforts to achieve equality, diversity and inclusion are not only undertaken by national companies and the petroleum ministry in Egypt, International companies also participate in creating equal opportunities for both genders.
Wintershall Dea for example has its own inclusion target by 2025. The company’s plan is to increase female C-suit employees to be 30%. They are building a working environment where women feel equal, welcome to work, and have the same opportunities as their male colleagues.
Shell, meanwhile, approaches diversity and equality in its workplace through its graduate program. It is concerned with cultivating talented graduates and giving them the needed skills to work. The program offers equal starting point to males and females stressing diversity and inclusion regardless of gender.
When it comes to promoting women to leading positions, women still lag behind due to the belief that women are less flexible to working conditions. According to Katharina Rick and Iván Martén in ‘Gender balance in oil and gas report’, “among women who are still working in the industry after 15-20 years, most have a less than 20% chance to land a Senior Executive job.” This misconception that women do not have the needed critical experience or the connections to be in leading positions can be defused by training programs that prepare women and men for the roles they will be filling.
The representation of women in oil and gas industry has increased in the past few years. The Egyptian oil and gas sector has been trying to eliminate discrimination and cultivate the skills of female employees to cope with the vision of diversity, equality, and inclusion and the belief that inclusion of women in a diverse environment helps in developing businesses as well as society.