Towards an inclusive oil, gas industry
Poor female representation is not something new in workplaces but the oil and gas industry is believed to take it to a whole new level.
In comparison to 18 other industries, the sector ranked last in female participation at entry levels. Compared to another engineering, science, mathematics, and technology industries, oil and gas took the last position. To reverse the trend, stakeholders believe diversity should be entrenched through local content provisions. FEMI ADEKOYA writes.
Globally, the oil and gas industry is undergoing a period of turbulence: unstable oil prices, changes to the regulatory landscape, and geopolitical instability. The Russia-Ukraine war has equally affected the dynamics of the industry. To add to this, the workforce in the sector is ageing and it is feeling the effect; the skills gap is always increasing and there is a shortage of talent with digitalization becoming clearer by day.
To counter this, the industry has turned to work on meeting human capital requirements for digital skills like machine learning, advanced analytics, and robotics. They are now giving more attention and increasing budget allocations to these movements.
A report from joint research by World Petroleum Council and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) showed that women covered 39 per cent of entry-level jobs only to drop to 13 per cent of senior-level positions in the industry. The research also found that many people concur that gender diversity is a weakness the sector is feeling.
Since 2017 however, companies in the oil and gas industry raised the number of diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives they adopted by 50 per cent. This shows that the industry is making a tangible effort toward attaining gender parity and improving diversity.
Locally, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) has called for the active inclusion of women in the administration of various trusts and funds contained in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021.
The Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Simbi Wabote, said with the PIA 2021 in place, active inclusion of women in the administration of these funds should be leveraged, saying that the Act provides for the establishment of Host Community Development Trust (the Trust) and the Host Community Development Trust Fund for communities.
Wabote, at the Nigeria Women in Oil and Gas conference 2022 themed “Leveraging opportunities for women in the oil and industry”, said the PIA 2021 also prescribed financial contribution to an environmental remediation fund for the rehabilitation or management of negative environmental impacts of petroleum operations.
According to him, these opportunities require the active involvement of our women, pointing out that efforts aimed at repositioning women as formidable players in key areas, including the oil and gas industry, are already yielding positive results.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said women make up 48 per cent of the global workforce, but stressed that they only account for 22 per cent of the labour force in the oil and gas sector.
He, however, stated that the Nigerian government has been deliberate in gender-friendly policies 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.
He noted that the Federal Government, through its NCDMB partnership, has 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.
In his words: “Recognising the importance of women in nation-building, and specifically in the growth and development of the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry, the NCDMB has taken a commendable step in inaugurating the Diversity Sectoral Working Group under the Nigerian Content Consultative Forum (NCCF) as provided in Section 58 of the NOGICD Act.”
He added that the oil and gas industry plays 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 the energy transition.
He added that harnessing the natural endowment, strength, intuition, knowledge and expertise of women for the growth of the industry has become a fundamental truth.
He said to take advantage of the changing landscape, women in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry must work together towards increasing women’s 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.
He stated that gender diversity and inclusion decrease with seniority, maintaining that there are 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.
The NCDMB boss said Nigerian women in energy is a strategic response to build a robust and sustainable stream of professionals and businesses that are adaptable to changing needs in the energy landscape.
He stated that one of the key challenges that hinder the participation of women in the oil and gas industry activities is the unavailability of funding, saying that the Board partnered with NEXIM Bank to establish a $40 million Women in energy fund.
He also stated that there is an additional $300million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund (NCI Fund) which also provides a long-term, single-digit interest rate funding available.
In his remarks, the NEXIM Managing Director, Abubakar Bello said that the partnership with the Board fits into the Bank’s framework for supporting inclusion as well as its strategy to grow the service industry in Nigeria and take it to the point of export to the West African region and other oil and gas economies.
The Chairman, Board of Directors, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Senator Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, said the oil and gas industry is traditionally dominated by men, saying that the industry is perhaps one of the most challenging for women professionally.
She said it is imperative to encourage the participation and involvement of women in this sector.