API Study: Getting More Women into Oil, Gas Careers

What do women in the energy industry want? That was one of the provocative questions asked by some of the presenters at the 2014 Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy that was held in Houston this week. 

It turns out that much of what women in the workplace want is not that different from what working men want: a good health care plan, long-term job security in a challenging position that allows for growth, an adequate salary and an opportunity to conduct one’s work in a safe environment, according to Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API).

But there are other things that women look for in a career, as well, Dougher added.

It is important for anyone considering a job “to see someone else [doing that job] who looks like they do.” That has particular resonance for women in the energy industry, since women make up just under one in five people in the oil and gas industry, or about 19 percent, compared with 47 percent of the overall U.S. labor force, Dougher said. So, there is an opportunity for more women to choose the energy industry as a career.

However, Dougher noted that more than 60 percent of the women in oil and gas were in administrative or support roles. So, the implication is that a lot of women could be staying away from high-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry because they don’t see a lot of women in the industry, particularly at the higher ranks. 

The comparative lack of women in the industry might seem curious, given the fact that the industry needs college-educated workers amid the energy revolution, and women make up about 58 percent of college students, Dougher said. However, much of the explanation lies in the fact that only about 20 percent of those female students are in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) courses. But that begs the question of why more women are not interested in the STEM disciplines to begin with. Again, they might not be seeing enough people “who look like they do” in STEM jobs, she said.

“We know this industry is growing, and it needs a lot of talent, and we have to spread a wide net. We also know that women have been vastly underrepresented in the oil and industry, and so are minorities,” Dougher said. 


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