Oil, Gas Industry Responds to the Gender Gap
The disparity between men and women in STEM roles, specifically in the oil and gas industry, is often discussed, but not with much action behind it. One company has decided to move past the lip service and launch a companywide initiative to actively address the gender gap.
Earlier this year, GE announced its goal to have 20,000 women in STEM roles at its company by Year 2020. The company has dubbed the initiative Balance the Equation and it is effective across all of GE’s business units, including GE Oil and Gas.
GE is known for its two-year, introductory programs for fresh graduates, such as the Operations Management Leadership Program (OMLP); Digital Technology Leadership Program (DTLP); and the Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP), Jody Markopoulos, vice president of operations for GE Oil and Gas, told Rigzone. The initiative is aimed toward employees at those program levels.
In regard to the current number of women in STEM positions, Markopoulos said GE is on par with industry average.
“In oil and gas, the industry average is about 14.5 percent. We are a couple of percentage points above that,” she said. “It’s great that we’re above the industry average, but in my mind, that’s not good enough.”
Balancing the Equation
With a few years left and more work to be done, GE has begun reaching out to the very people who they will need to narrow the gender gap – university students.
“In the past few weeks, we have visited seven U.S. schools in which we do a lot of our entry-level recruiting from,” said Markopoulos, who is also coleader of GE’s internal Women’s Network. “We visit the schools in an interactive RV and speak to them about STEM education and what kinds of careers they can have at GE with a STEM background.”
Being a part of the dialogue is essential to encouraging the retention of young women in a career path that has a backbone in STEM, she added. Active engagement in the community and being representative of different experience levels is important, too.
Paula McCann Harris, director of global educational programming for Schlumberger, started as a field engineer working offshore 30 years ago and believes while the industry still has a ways to go in equal gender representation, significant strides have been made.
“Making STEM accessible to girls while tying STEM solutions into their interests will be important,” Harris told Rigzone. “The industry needs to promote the high-tech and environmental solutions as well as career opportunities for growth. Because we now see females in the C-suite and on the boards of major oil and gas companies, young college graduates can believe there is a path to the top and a path to success.”
In 2004, Schlumberger launched its Faculty for the Future program, in which 600 women from 78 developing and emerging countries have received fellowships to pursue doctorate and post-doctorate STEM degrees.
Upon completion of their studies, Fellows are expected to return to their home countries and contribute to the country’s economic, social and technological advancement. This includes bolstering STEM teaching and research faculties of their home institutions, pursuing positions in the public sector where they can use their new skills to influence support for STEM policy-making.
Adjusting to Employee Needs
The work doesn’t end after women enter into STEM positions. Retention is the next step. Several factors can contribute to whether or not women will stay in their roles – company culture, advancement opportunities and flexibility in work schedules, just to name a few.
Throughout the years, GE has made changes to its employee benefits packages and one of those changes is a pilot program called Moms on the Move. Through this program, employees who are nursing and traveling for business can ship their breast milk home to their baby. Markopoulos said GE will be launching the program across all of its business segments in the United States.
The company has also contemporized its traditional maternity and paternity leave programs to offer more permissive time, she said.
The proactive approach to closing the gender gap by oil and gas companies as well as continued collaboration with colleges and universities is encouraging for an industry that has struggled in the past to attract and retain women.
For GE, Balancing the Equation is less a numbers game and more a persistent strategy to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM.
“Although it’s hard to imagine not reaching our goal, I feel that the momentum we’re building through this program will have a tremendous impact, both short-term and long-term – even beyond 2020.
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