When FWB Park Brown started more than 25 years ago, discussions about gender balance in the boardroom were not particularly commonplace in the oil and gas sector.
Over the years this has changed and many of FWB Park Brown’s clients now seek to explore our track record of diversity inclusion when considering using our services, and we have also seen an increase in demand for gender-balanced shortlists.
As a sector the energy industry is historically recognised for its male-dominated workforce, and the gender imbalance becomes more distinct in executive and board roles with just 6% of executive board seats occupied by women.
Positive efforts are being made to address this issue with the formation last year of the Energy Leaders Coalition which aims to increase the number of women in senior and middle management roles.
In the north-east, with women in prominent leadership roles across a number of high profile operators, service companies and industry bodies – and Energy Voice successfully hosting its Women in Energy event last year – positive movement continues to be made towards gender equality in oil and gas.
Seeking to make a meaningful and practical contribution to this effort, my colleague Judy Wagner developed and launched The Executive Women’s Leadership Programme (EWLP) with Edinburgh University’s Business School, providing a high-level programme for women in senior management focused on progressing their careers.
Now entering its fourth year, the programme has established a powerful and effective network of women across the entire Scottish economy.
Amy Campbell from Air Liquide attended the programme last year and said: “The EWLP allowed me to explore my capabilities as a leader with valuable insights into my strengths which gave me the confidence to step up and operate at a more senior level in my organisation.
“The guest speakers who came along to the different sessions were truly inspirational and it was refreshing to hear them being so open about the challenges they had faced.
“This gave me the courage to be more honest about what I want from my own career. The biggest takeaway for me however, which I feel has been transformational in my development, is the network of ambitious, talented and supportive women that the course has enabled me to build.”
Last year Katy Heidenreich, operations optimisation manager at Oil and Gas UK, published her book The Oil Industry’s Best Kept Secret to promote the oil and gas sector as an inclusive, diverse space with opportunities for all.
Having shaped an impressive career for herself in the sector, Katy notes that, while the industry may not be perceived as being as glamorous as some other sectors, it should be considered an attractive environment for women.
As a reaction to the energy sector’s masculine reputation, highly competitive internal policies encouraging a progressive environment with support of family life and flexible working as key issues have been adopted by many organisations.
While her own experience has been overwhelmingly positive, Katy feels that the attractive aspects of the industry must be visible to make it competitive for both men and women.
Shaping a more gender-balanced industry is most certainly on the agenda and this must be showcased to attract and develop the best of the best – regardless of gender.
Nia Lynch is a senior consultant with FWB Park Brown