WIEpanel

Equality in parental leave would increase diversity in Oil industry

OPC Managing Director Piers Johnson said that a change in HR legislation to provide both fathers and mothers with the same parental leave rights would be a key step in increasing gender diversity at senior levels with the Oil and Gas industry.

Piers was speaking at the 8th SPE Annual Women in Energy Seminar in London on 21st May to an audience of more than 200 industry professionals who had met to discuss how best to increase the number of women in senior roles.   Piers said “There is still an unconscious expectation that it is the mother who needs to put her career on hold to raise a family.  By giving mothers and fathers the same rights in terms of maternity/paternity/parental leave, as is the case in Norway, gives a clear message that both partners have responsibilities in raising children and that fathers as much as mothers can be involved in raising children.”

The seminar attendee included many female professionals struggling to balance work and family commitments and they heard from inspirational senior female energy industry executives including Iman Hill, Heidi Hellman and Jennifer Burton.  All three have succeeded in reaching senior positions within oil companies and raising families at the same time.    Their advice was actually as useful to the men in the audience as it was to the women and can be summarised as:

  • Be Dependable– deliver in your work and establish your credibility
  • Define priorities – map out what you want to achieve professionally and personally
  • Tell the boss – share your professional expectations and what your personal limits are
  • Be flexible – if you want to be take the kids to school or be home for meals then accept that you may need to log back in from home once the kids are in bed to do more work
  • Focus on priorities – don’t waste time at home or at work – get on with the important stuff and outsource unproductive tasks
  • You can – too often women think of reasons why they can’t do a job while men think they can. Stretch yourself and have faith on your abilities.
  • But don’t push too hard – if you’re too “pushy” then you’ll turn people off

Piers took part in a panel discussion with Jane Burt (VP HR North Africa, BP), Gro Kieland (Director Hagrola Consulting AS), Sally Martin (VP Downstream HSSE, Shell), Iman Hill (GM Technical Services, Sasol) and David Mahoney (Turner Lovell).  As well as equality in parental leave, Piers also called for better facilities for women on offshore rigs, a focus on attracting a higher percentage of women on University engineering courses and for an increased awareness of their unconscious bias amongst senior male executives, suggesting that they should listen to the fantastic case studies of the women on the panel.  However he stopped short of supporting quotas for women and was against giving any preferential treatment in a recruitment/selection process. “I’ve always believed that the best person for the job should get the job – regardless of their gender, race or sexuality.”

The final thought for the seminar was “Why are we, a group of women, still talking about this topic to a roomful of women?”  The suggestion was that, for next year, the topic could be extended to cover “Diversity in Energy” and a greater proportion of senior male executives from the industry should be invited to take part.