Despite accounting for half of the U.S. workforce, women only make up 19 percent of employees in the U.S. oil and gas and petrochemical industries, according to a 2014 study by the American Petroleum Institute (API). This is a problematic trend for oil and gas companies. Research has shown that a diverse workforce increases productivity and revenue. Greater diversity also increases knowledge sharing and retention, which is especially important to oil and gas given its impending retirement crisis.
Though there has been significant growth in oil and gas employment opportunities, women perceive obstacles to becoming employed in the industry. API’s research indicates that the top obstacle to women considering employment in oil and gas is a lack of awareness and understanding of job and career development opportunities. According to the survey, 63 percent of female participants reported never having applied for an oil and gas job because they thought they lacked qualifications, thought these jobs were outside their field, did not know the industry was hiring, or had simply never thought about working in oil and gas.
A recent APQC interview with Pink Petro CEO, Katie Mehnert, echoed these sentiments, but also brought forth an important solution—mentoring. Despite having a parent who worked in the oil and gas industry, Mehnert said she was not urged to go into a STEM career, much less oil and gas. “I was never encouraged to pursue a STEM career even though I had STEM parents and I believe that it’s because [the oil crisis in the 1980s] had such a devastating impact on our community.”
Despite this hesitation, Mehnert began a career in oil and gas because of her fascination with the industry. Mehnert has over 17 years of experience in oil and gas, and she attributes her success partially to her mentors. “[My mentor] started coaching and mentoring me and at one point she asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I told her I really don’t know what the possibilities are.” Mehnert’s mentors showed her different technical and non-technical occupations available to women and coached her through career transitions. Additionally, through her network, she learned about industry trends, talked to industry experts, and mentored others. Mehnert’s positive experiences in oil and gas are in part due to her work relationships with female mentors. “My career took off because a woman noticed me in a room, we started having a conversation, we developed a friendship over time and I learned about the possibilities of where my career [in oil and gas] could go.”
In addition to mentorship, there are additional ways to bolster the number of women in the oil and gas sector. For example, women in API’s research study recommended that the industry create an educational campaign that introduces the industry, showcase women who already work in the industry, and highlight the variety of occupations and qualifications for jobs in the industry. In collaboration with Shell, Halliburton, Jive Software, and Social Edge, Mehnert provides a channel for this through Pink Petro.
Pink Petro is a social media channel for women in energy. The channel is dedicated to increasing diversity in gender, generations, ethnicities, and cultures in the energy industry and is another approach to female talent development and retention. Members of Pink Petro can reach out and network with experts in the energy industry, have conversations, ask questions, gather advice, participate in the online community, find out the latest trends and news, read content, and find mentors.
To increase the number of women in oil and gas, Mehnert recommends that women become more involved with the oil and gas community through Pink Petro and in their current jobs. “I try to tell women, stop thinking that you’re the only one who needs a mentor. Start being a mentor to others in addition to looking for a mentor for yourself.”
Women and those interested in advancing women in the oil and gas sector can visit Pink Petro to find out how they can be more involved and you can click here to sign up.
Want to learn more about the oil and gas sector? Check out other APQC resources on the industry.
- State of Leadership in the Oil and Gas Industry (Infographic)
- How Smart Leaders Leverage and Grow Experts in the Oil and Gas Industry (Infographic)
- Retaining Critical Knowledge: A Process
- The Phillips 66 Summer Intern Challenge: Wiki 66