Q&A: NDC's 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas

Q&A: NDC's 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas
National Diversity Council Founder Dennis Kennedy tells Rigzone how the 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas list is trying to address the gender imbalance in the industry.

Female board representation in the five oil and gas companies with the highest market cap in the industry is alarmingly low, according to global data from Gender Map. Exxon Mobil Corp.’s female board ratio stands at 15.4 percent, Chevron Corp.’s is at 16.7 percent, Royal Dutch Shell plc’s stands at 9.1 percent, Petroleo Brasileiro S.A.’s (Petrobras) comes in at 18.2 percent and Schlumberger Ltd.’s is at 9.1 percent.

A separate 2014 global census of women board directors across all industries, by Catalyst, found that 19.2 percent of S&P 500 board seats in the United States are held by women. In Canada, that percentage stood at 20.8 percent and in Europe, the percentages swayed from 7.9 percent in Portugal to 35.5 percent in Norway. In APAC countries, the ratio ranged from 3.1 percent in Japan to 19.2 percent in Australia.

In an attempt to address the gender imbalance in the oil and gas industry, the US-based National Diversity Council has founded an annual 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas list, which celebrates the most prominent female leaders of the US oil and gas sector. This awards scheme utilizes a vast range of strenuous criteria to determine its winners, who are nominated via the organization’s website, and recognizes industry professionals from a variety of major and independent exploration and production firms, as well as oil and gas services companies.

In this feature, National Diversity Council Founder Dennis Kennedy talks to Rigzone about the current state of the oil and gas industry and outlines what it takes to make it onto the 50 Most Powerful Women list.

Rigzone: How long has the National Diversity Council been producing the 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas list, and what was the inspiration behind starting this award scheme?

Kennedy: The National Diversity Council has published the Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas list for two consecutive years. Due to the dearth of women who study engineering or pursue careers in the oil and gas field, males have come to dominate this industry. By recognizing and highlighting the achievements of successful women in oil and gas, we hope to both attract and retain women in this important field. The National Diversity Council would like to raise awareness of the gender gap responsible for the lack of women in the oil and gas industry. Celebrating the resilience, leadership, and success of these Top 50 women will inspire women of the future to pursue their careers in this industry.

Rigzone: Do you think enough is being done by the oil and gas industry to address the gender imbalance?

Kennedy: This is an industry that has made enormous strides in the past few decades, coming from the virtual dark ages into gender recognition and respect. The percentage of women working within the oil and gas industry in recent years has increased across the globe anywhere from 52 percent to an astonishing 80 percent. So, is the issue being addressed? Yes. Is there still an imbalance? Yes. However, the imbalance will smooth out over time due to efforts already being addressed. As to leadership roles, I’d like to see as much progress happen there.

Rigzone: Will the sector have a more even split of males and females in the next five years?

Kennedy: One would hope that every year the gap will continue to close. However, I can’t say at what point in the future the field will be leveled.  Keep in mind, men had a 200-year head-start. The encouraging news is that equality is being achieved at the new hire level. So, as the old guard continues to age out, the face of the oil and gas industry will definitely change. Once again, hopefully at all levels, including the managerial and executive ones. The next five years should show us a lot.

Rigzone: Could you outline some of the criteria the council considers when forming the 50 Most Powerful Women list? What traits do you look out for?

Kennedy: The women chosen should exhibit the leadership skills necessary to help their organization stay competitive on the global stage. They must directly contribute to business growth or strategic direction of the organization. Consistent contribution usually includes maintaining a record of accomplishments in areas of expertise. Most women with such leadership skills are effective role models who inspire other women in their field and are active in mentoring the next generation of women in the industry. These women would operate with the highest integrity and ethical behavior while demonstrating a commitment to corporate citizenship.

Rigzone: Could you tell us about some of the past winners?

Kennedy: Vicki Hollub, a 33-year veteran in the oil and gas industry and the first female CEO of Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation epitomizes the criteria of the Top 50 Women in Oil and Gas List. During her successful career, she has forged a proven track record in helping her organization grow and excel on the global stage. Her story serves as an inspiration to all women who wish to pursue a career in the oil and gas field and serves as further proof that there is in fact no talent gap.


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A graduate in journalism from Cardiff University, Andreas has eight years of experience as a business journalist. Email Andreas at andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com


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