Creating an Inclusive Environment for Women in Oil Sector

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Esther Oluku writes on the need to encourage more women participation in the oil and gas sector

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Balance for Better’, which was in line with the United Nation’s vision to reach a more gender balanced society by 2030, identifies the current position of the women folk which stands at a ratio of less than 30 per cent in comparison to the male counterparts in various professions across the world.

According to current analysis, the ratio of women to men in the maritime industry is at 2:98 per cent globally and 15:85 per cent in the oil and gas industry nationally. The above statistics exemplifies the disproportionate deployment of the female members of the society and as such become of thematic focus across the globe.

The aim of the workshop was to provide a platform for women in the oil and gas industry to deliberate on issues affecting their entry into the sector as employees or entrepreneurs, their career advancement to top positions, their peculiar challenges, as well as showcase role models and share their success stories.

The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Simbi Wabote, while speaking in Lagos recently, said women empowerment in the oil and gas industry was of great importance.

The event which was organised by NCDMB to bridge the gender gap in the oil and gas sector was themed; Mainstreaming Women in the Oil and Gas Industry’.

Wabote stated that the level of gender diversity in the oil and gas sector is currently low, stressing that more women should be encouraged to aspire to higher positions of leadership and authority in the industry.
“It is very important that we empower women in the oil and gas industry. If the men in the industry and operators support the female leaders who are now in the sector, these females will in turn encourage other younger women who will encourage the girl child down the line.

“Our markets today are run by women but unfortunately, when we talk about we talk about technical and engineering skills, they get scared. We need to encourage them and let them know that there are opportunities in the oil and gas sector and part of our efforts is to give women the opportunity to make an input.

“This is an effort to reach out to the stakeholders to see how the women who are already in the sector can reach out and make for more inclusiveness for other women to come in,” he said.

Wabote, who said capacity would be built across genders in the sector, advocated the training of the girl-child in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects which would help in growing female participation in the sector.
The workshop attracted the participation of stakeholders in the oil and gas sector as well as the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan, and the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mrs. Hadiza Bala-Usman.

The Executive Vice Chairman, H. Pierson Associates, Mrs. Eileen Shaiyen, outlined key success factors for female corporate executives and entrepreneurs in the oil and gas sector.
She stated during a panel session that the reasons why most women crashed out along the way was their inability to effectively balance their desires for a career, with the demands of motherhood, building a family and responding to adverse societal stereotypes about the role of women.

To get to the top, she encouraged women to set clear career targets for themselves, build a strong support system and stay very focused. She also emphasized the need for them to abhor mediocrity and strive for excellence always.

A representative of the Women in Energy Board of Trustees, Mrs. Joana Maduka, expressed optimism at the initiative and offered possible solutions to encouraging better working conditions for females in the industry.

“There should be some sort of bridging course to bring childbearing women up to speed when they return to the workplace and also the establishment of creches where women can leave their young ones while they work.

This she said would create a better work environment for nursing mothers saddled with the task of optimal performance at work and in the home front. Maduka maintained that women should find a way to combine family work and their responsibilities as professionals in the workplace.

Usman who described the gender imbalance in the oil and gas sector as “a man with two hands who chooses to lift a heavy luggage before him with one hand,” maintained that the sector would save more resources if the industry employs all human resources available to it optimally.

Usman, who further emphasised the responsibility of motherhood, advocated for incentives to help boost female performance in their workplaces.

“Most of these policies do not allow the young woman to remain in employment because no matter how we want to help someone to become a CEO or a managing director, if the woman does not have those core competences, she will never become one. We have to make special considerations to accommodate our family’s needs.

“I inherited a policy that required one to be married before they can go on maternity leave and I find it laughable because childbearing has nothing to do with one’s marital status. Every mother should be given the privilege to look after her baby. Her marital status is not your business as an organisation,” she said.

While speaking on competence as a factor to female participation in key areas of the oil and gas sector, Director, Corporate and Regulatory Affairs AOS Orwell, Mrs. Charlotte Essiet, reitterated that women must strive to be professionals at work in other to climb up the ladder.

“You must educate and develop yourself. I paid to go to school to the level where it didn’t matter what it looked like and I am still learning,” she said.
On her part, the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan, lauded the efforts of the NCDMB, saying it is a step in the right direction.

She proposed that a quota should be created for women in all levels of decision making in the oil and gas sector and the country at large.
“We should create a quota for women in decision making in strategic positions and in so doing ensure that the country maximises the economic potential of its whole labour force. We should promote equal rights, access and opportunity for women at all level.

“I would like to laud the goodwill that women in Nigeria have enjoyed from his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, who has led by example by demonstrating the political will to actualize balance particularly in the area of appointing women to key positions in his administration”.