It is common knowledge that women are underrepresented in most organizations across all levels. Therefore, it is not surprising to find this same trend in the extractive industries – mining, quarrying, oil and gas, etc. Despite this trend, women continue to excel in male-dominated sectors, where they constitute less than 25%, including the extractive industries. According to a PwC research, on the average, for every £1 invested in business related to mining, those with all-male board members have a loss of 2% on their investment while those with two or more women make a return of 6% on their investment.
Despite the convincing evidence that increase in women participation leads to increase in profitability, and better performance, women constituted only 7.9 percent of board positions in the top 500 mining companies around the world in 2016, according to a study conducted by Catalyst, a non-governmental organization. The same study by Catalyst showed that among the top 100 companies, 94 percent of women represented were in non-executive positions. This is in sharp contrast to Bell Oil and Gas where 44% of the management team comprise of women.
Enormous potential exists to increase the proportion of women in the Oil and Gas industry due to increase in mechanization and less reliance on manual labor. Hence, the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria, APWEN, is working hard to advocate, encourage, mentor and sensitize the girl-child to take an interest in the engineering profession.
Although more women are taking interest in engineering and the oil and gas industry in general, in order to maintain this positive trend, responsible parties must be held accountable for bringing about lasting change. These responsible parties include parents (or family members with influence), governments and business leaders.
I attended a recent event for career women organized by one of the top commercial banks in Nigeria to celebrate the International Women’s Day 2020. I noticed a common trait in all the women that were invited to speak at the event – they were all bold and self-confident. When they told their stories and how they reached the pinnacles of their careers, I noted that all of them had fathers who believed in, encouraged and supported them right from when they were little girls. Their fathers constantly provided counsel and guidance and gave them equal educational opportunities as their brothers. Therefore, I concluded that the making of a strong, confident, determined and successful career woman starts from the home.
For women to thrive and excel in any career, more so in the male-dominated Oil and Gas Industry, the role of fathers and the men in their lives cannot be overemphasized. According to research findings by the Institute for Family Studies in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, “…daughters whose fathers have been actively engaged throughout childhood in promoting their academic or athletic achievements and encouraging their self-reliance and assertiveness are more likely to graduate from college and to enter the higher paying, more demanding jobs traditionally held by males. This helps explain why girls who have no brothers are overly represented among the world’s political leaders: they tend to receive more encouragement from their fathers to be high achievers. Even college and professional female athletes often credit their fathers for helping them to become tenacious, self-disciplined, ambitious, and successful”.
Governments must ensure they comply with international legal obligations that require countries to enact and enforce laws and policies that promote equal treatment and opportunity for women. Many international laws recognize the basic human rights that affect women’s ability to work and enjoy the right to work. These include:
- Right to equal pay for equal work
- Conditions of work for women must not be inferior to those enjoyed by men
- Equal opportunity to be promoted based on competence and seniority, and to obtain the education, training, and mentoring necessary to achieve employment and promotion
- Enabling persons with family responsibilities to exercise their right to work without conflict between their employment and family responsibilities by providing social support such as accommodations for breastfeeding mums, etc.
Concurrently, governments should abolish laws, regulations, and cultural practices that restrict the types of work in which women can engage, practices that limit women’s freedom of movement and encourage gender-based workplace discrimination or harassment. Companies and businesses found culpable should be severely sanctioned to deter others.
All companies, irrespective of “size, sector, location, ownership and structure,” have a responsibility to respect all fundamental human rights, including those of women. Consequently, companies should institute policies and processes that respect human rights, including specific processes to identify, prevent, mitigate, and address impacts of their operations on the rights of women to work and enjoy their work. Where there are violations, transparent and non-punitive processes should be put in place to ensure there is appropriate investigation and remediation of the breach.
When concerted efforts are made to incorporate the role of women in the oil and gas industry, there are enormous benefits, other than financial benefits, that would ensue. There would be a wider talent pool to draw from, improved governance behaviors that would boost investor confidence and well-balanced decision-making. It is a win-win situation for all.