Boosting Women’s Inclusion in Oil and Gas
At the second edition of the Women in Oil and Gas Conference, key stakeholders deliberated strategies to chart a way forward that would positively boost more women’s inclusion in the sector. Rebecca Ejifoma reports
At the second edition of the Women in and Gas Conference 2022, it was unarguable that the women meant business when they set out to rev up their game in the sector. As much as they had their fair share of the good and the bad times, they assembled and spoke in one language – inclusion.
Over the years, women have continued to clamour for inclusion, diversity and equity in various fields of the economy globally. Like other sectors, the Nigerian oil and gas is no exception, hence, dignitaries like the Special Guest of Honour and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, among others threw their weight behind their call.
The conference, which addressed the theme, “Leveraging Opportunities for Women in the Oil and Gas Industry”, was powered by the Nigerian Content Consultative Forum (NCCF) by the Diversity Sectoral Working Group (DSWG) in Lagos. Hence, it was a perfect platform to promote this cause
In his address, Sylva made bold claims that there were enough provisions in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content (NOGIC) Act and the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to encourage the involvement of women.
While calling for more participation of women in the oil and gas industry, he insisted that harnessing their natural strength, intuition, knowledge and expertise for the growth of the industry has become imperative.
As the Special Guest of Honour, the minister conceded that although women make up 48 per cent of the global workforce, he said they are only 22 per cent of the labour force in the oil and gas field.
Consequently, Sylva stated that the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) had taken a bold step to inaugurate the group in line with Section 58 of the Act setting it up by deliberately promulgating gender-friendly policies.
He said: “What we are doing here is to sensitise and galvanise to get more women involved. The Nigerian government has been deliberate in gender-friendly policies. This is aimed at increasing access to funding, award of contracts and support for research and development in the interest of women operators in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
“This government, through its Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) – Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) partnership, has rolled out a 40 million dollar fund to empower women in the oil industry. “This is separate from the 300 million dollar Nigerian Content Initiative (NCI) Fund, which is equally available to women (and men) who meet the criteria.” Noting that the industry played a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of the world and would continue to play this key role in spite of the growing call for energy transition, he opined that harnessing the natural endowment, strength, intuition, knowledge and expertise of women for the growth of the industry has become a fundamental truth. Stressing that women needed one another to survive the realities of the sector, whether locally or internationally, he added that “It is estimated that women occupy about 50 per cent of non-technical positions at entry level compared to only 15 per cent of technical and field role positions. “Gender diversity and inclusion decreases with seniority. There is 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, a recent study by Global Energy Talent Index Report has indicated”. Summarily, he urged the various women groups in the sector to work together to champion the course of women in the industry, for the greater good of all.
Still exuding dedication to changing the narrative and providing women with more opportunities in the industry, the NCDMB created a N14.6 billion fund to boost women’s inclusion in the sector.
The Executive Director, NCDMB, Mr Simbi Wabote, made this submission in his remark earlier at the hybrid conference. “The Board is partnering with the Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank to establish a $40 million women in energy fund.
“This is in addition to the $300m Nigerian Content intervention fund (available to both men and women), which also provides a long-term single-digit interest rate to make funding available with the Bank of Industry (BOI),” says Wabote.
He also gave the women his word about the Board’s enthusiasm to restyle and furnish them with more opportunities, shoot up their participation, and recognition in the sector.
Just like the others, the Chairman, Board of Directors, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd, Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, harped on the significance of women getting involved in the oil and gas industry as germane for rapid growth.
She also saw the dire need for more provisions for women in strategic positions to breed economic growth in the country. “There is no better time to promote this forum than now, especially with the passage of the PIA,” says Chuba-Okadigbo.
And with the Women in Oil and Gas Conference seeking to have more women engage in the sector, the conference highlighted the challenges, opportunities and seamless ways to navigate them.
It was in line with this that the Chairperson DSWG, Mrs Alero Onosode, commended the women in the industry for a platform to meet minds, make a case, and become a force for change in the lives of the Nigerian oil and gas.
While conceding that women have achieved so much in the sector in her opening remarks, Onosode encouraged the women to roll up their sleeves.
Her words: “With the theme for this year, the oil and gas industry remains pivotal to the change that we want to see in our country and the world. The energy transition offers more opportunities to all women today. That change will only come when we get new creative energy around the table and new solutions to the problem ahead of us.”
Onosode, however, cautioned that if they are going to birth something new in this nation and across the industry, it is going to take the coming together of the men and the women.
With each window that the women will come across, the chairperson emboldened them, “We must face it with preparedness, resilience and fortitude. Now that we are getting ourselves ready, we must take our place now.”
In a communique issues afterwards, the
organisers noted that “Project 100 for women-owned businesses as proposed by Senator Margaret Chuba-Okadigbo will transform the terrain completely. Like their male counterparts, these businesses will grow fast and begin to compete internationally, bringing the dividends home with multiplier effects on the horizon.
“An alliance with women in the host community led by women professionals of Diversity SWG, and its strategic partner associations in the oil and gas industry. The engagements come with several benefits: economic empowerment, policing their husbands/relatives, youths, and curbing their excesses like illegal refining, vandalism, etc.
“Having policies and eventually laws that will ensure certain quantum or scope of projects are set aside for women-owned businesses. It will be a way to strengthen the conversation. Like Local Content pursuit, it will move the conversation from the angle of best endeavors to that of being an obligation on the part of companies and ministries departments and agencies, MDAs.
“Oil and Gas Women’s Strategic Collaboration will bring about many benefits. Benefits of an immediate spread across the entire industry. Having a strategic alliance with women associations across the entire value chain of the oil industry will create an immediate presence of the NCDMB’s Diversity SWG in these areas. The alliance will be expected to snoop around for opportunities in these sub-sectors and through the power of advocacy, actually land some for the women.
“There is a great need to increase the funding of women-owned businesses. From the increase in NCIF managed by the Bank of Industry, BOI, through the Nigerian Export-Import Bank fund, there is a lot to dwell on in enhancing the capacity of these women and their businesses.”
Energy transition offers more opportunities to all women today. That change will only come when we get new creative energy around the table and new solutions to the problem ahead of us
Alero Onosode, Chairperson Diversity SWG (NCCF); Chief Timipre Sylva, Hon. Min of state for Petroleum Resources; Sen Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, NNPC Ltd Chairperson; a guest and Mrs Lami Ahmed, member of NNPC Board