Sylva Calls for More Women Participation in Oil, Gas Industry

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Peter Uzoho in Lagos

The Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, yesterday called for more participation of women in the oil and gas industry, stressing that harnessing their natural strength, intuition, knowledge and expertise for the growth of the industry had become imperative.

Sylva, who spoke at the Nigerian Content Consultative Forum (NCCF) Diversity Working Group’s Conference in Lagos, stated that although women make up 48 per cent of the global work force, they only account for 22 per cent of the labour force in the oil and gas sector.

Cognisance of this, the minister stated that the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) had taken a step in inaugurating the group as provided in Section 58 of the Act setting it up by deliberately promulgating gender- friendly policies.

He recalled that the government, through its NCDMB – Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) partnership, had rolled out a $40 million fund to empower women in the oil industry, separate from the Nigerian Content Initiative (NCI) Fund which is equally available to women (and men) who meet the criteria.

Still, Sylva said women need one another to survive the realities of the oil and gas sector, whether locally or internationally.

The minister pointed out that it was estimated that women occupied about 50 per cent of non-technical positions at entry level compared to only 15 per cent of technical and field role positions.

According to him, gender diversity and inclusion decreases with seniority with only a tiny proportion of women in executive positions.

“The percentage of women in the industry drops over time from 36 per cent to 24 per cent between the middle and executive level,” he quoted a recent study by Global Energy Talent Index Report, as indicating.

He stressed that more strides could be achieved if women groups in the industry embraced one another, adding that it was time to work together in championing the cause of women in the industry.

With the recent appointment of  Elohor Aiboni as the Managing Director of Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production as Company (SNEPCo) and Margrey Okadigbo as pioneer chair Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Sylva said Nigeria would not be left behind in its determination to ensure adequate representation of women in the industry.

“To take advantage of the changing landscape, women in the Nigerian oil and gas industry must work together towards increasing women participation in the industry, engendering growth, building capacities and capabilities, identifying opportunities, mentoring and coaching, in order for the industry to progress as a whole.

“In order for all these to happen, we need the buy-in, commitment and sponsorship of all players across the various segments of the oil and gas value chain to support the diversity and inclusion agenda,” he added.

He further charged organisations to review their policies so that opportunities are created for qualified women in technical and C-Level positions.

“In addition, we cannot over-emphasise the need for supplier diversity across all sections of the oil and gas supply chain and now is the time for affirmative action in this regard,” he stressed.

Sylva said these just as the Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Senator Margery Okadigbo, at the same event appealed to the NCDMB leadership to consider replicating one of its flagship capacity building programmes, Project-100 Module, for the empowerment of Nigerian women in oil and gas industry.

The conference was part of NCDMB’s commitment to deepen women’s participation in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.

Also speaking at the conferernce, Okadigbo, appealed to the NCDMB leadership to consider replicating one of its flagship capacity building programmes, Project-100 Module, for the empowerment of Nigerian women in oil and gas industry.

Project 100 is an initiative of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources alongside the NCDMB to look holistically at 100 wholly indigenous oil and gas companies and nurture them to the next level by enhancing their capacities, supporting them financially through the NCI Fund and helping them to find opportunities in the industry, in collaboration with the NNPC.

Okadigbo pointed out the oil and gas industry was perhaps one of the most challenging for women professionals as significant contributor to the Nigerian economy, saying it was imperative to encourage the participation and involvement of women in the sector.

“I am appealing to the NCDMB leadership to consider a replication of the NCDMB Project 100 Module for women in oil and gas business. We believe this will further help to encourage more women participation in the industry,” she said.

The NNPC chair said there was no better time to promote the conversation around empowering women in oil and gas than now, especially with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and with President Muhammadu Buhari graciously appointing women including herself into strategic board positions and executive management positions.

Recognising the various barriers to the advancement of women in the business world generally and in the oil and gas industry in particular, Okadigbo expressed optimism that the outcome of the conference would lead to significant improvement in the opportunities available to women especially in the oil and gas industry.

“With these opportunities created from the passage of the PIA and with the sterling support from the public and private sector of the oil and gas industry also partnering with various women groups across the country, I believe it will garner more support for women in the industry,” she added.

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