There’s need to harness the latent energy, wisdom of women in oil and gas industry’
Knowledge driven Dr Dunni Owo is a founding partner and president of Women in Energy Oil and Gas (WEOG) Nigeria, a body designed to harness female talents in the oil and gas industry that has remained dormant. In this exclusive interview with GuardianWoman, Dr Dunni, a refinery guru and an award-winning author talks about her journey in the industry and her passion to support women in male-dominated industries.
What is WEOG about?
WEOG is a forum where women across the entire energy industry chain, from the upstream, midstream and downstream, come together as a body to network, collaborate, discuss and harness the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 05, which focuses on gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. Part of the objectives is to see an enhancement of 50 per cent latent wisdom, energy, and capabilities inputted by women in the industry that has been unexpressed in the industry. We discovered the need to harness such experiences for the growth of the industry and nation.
As president, what actions have you taken to promote gender equality?
We provide networking at all levels to support career development, promote diversity and inclusion of SDG in the industry. We also provide a platform for mentorship of young professionals and share experiences and information that would help create work-life balance. As president, we have drawn up a STEM programme to reach out to girls and encourage them to study such courses.
We also want to reach out to women in oil-producing communities. In my active industry days when I visit sites, the standard of life there was so poor. So we would train them on sustainable small-scale business in the industry partnering with companies they host.
We importantly tap into the wealth of knowledge of veterans in the industry.
What drives your passion for female inclusiveness in society?
I want girls to have well-built self-esteem, confidence, be knowledge-driven and have a paradigm shift.
What has been your pains and gains in the industry?
There has been a lot of pains, the fact that women are relegated to the background and sometimes when you talk, you are seen as being too forward or rude. At some point, I had serious fears in the industry because a lot of times I was shut down at meetings when I was trying to air my views. For gains, reading has been a short- cut to help me grow and achieve so much.
What drives your passion for the sector?
I joined the oil and gas industry in 1995 as an undergraduate; the days where there was so much fuel scarcity. I was opportune to see the other side of the downstream industry. I saw death, people sleeping in their cars for days to be on the queue, fire outbreak at gas stations, among others. After this experience, I sought to discover the problem and what can be done to solve it. So my journey in the industry started.
I moved into the downstream oil and gas industry, started with National Oil that was later rebranded to Conoil, after which I moved to Unipetrol that was later rebranded to Oando (with the downstream sector now called OVH).
I had the opportunity to go through the different departments; HR, logistics, distribution, supply chain, strategy and planning, sales and marketing and projects. At some point I decided to take a leave to go refresh and study. It was at this point I started recollecting what got me to the industry initially and I realised that the story was still the same, so I decided to make some research.
Was it your research that brought about your discoveries on refining and the publishing of your book?
Yes. I researched into refining and discovered that people don’t make investments there because they believe there is no money in it. But it shouldn’t be all about the money. Our major energy source in this country is the fossil fuel. The existing three refineries are producing below 15 percent of their capacity.
During this period, I was privileged to consult for one of the companies that had a refinery license during former president Goodluck Jonathan’s era, which availed me to travel the world in search of a solution. Along the line, I discovered the modular refining option, where you don’t have to use a billion dollars or 500 million dollars to build a refinery, but could refine as low as 100 barrels per day. I also discovered developing countries have modular units in different local areas that service the area.
Yes, it comes at a premium price because it is more expensive than the standard large complex refinery that can churn out everything you want, but it is worth it.
I put my findings in the book, titled ‘Black Gold Refinery Business Made Easy: The Ultimate Guide To Making Big Money In Oil & Gas Refining, to simplify the process and for investors to realise it is profitable and achievable. The book became an award-winning masterpiece in the United States. It sells on Amazon and some bookshops in Nigeria.
After my book, I started getting consulting gigs within and outside the country, which birthed the company called, Black Gold Consultancy.
The organisation consult on refining, training and also collaborates with offshore funders on oil and gas deals across Africa and connects them with project finance investors to put their money in the Nigerian or African market. We also provide career development projects.
So what are you doing to encourage refining in Nigeria?
In 2017, I was invited by the then minister of petroleum to discuss how refinery can ensue in the country. I actually offered to give free training for organisations interested and youths in the host communities to discover business opportunities in the chain. I appreciate the legend, Aliko Dangote, for taking the initiative.
I have a bonus chapter in the books on jobs that could be created through refining and the salary range. I also give a lot of my books for free so people and stakeholders can benefit from the wealth of knowledge in it.
How has it been as a woman in the oil and gas industry.
It has not been easy, but I was able to weather the storm because of my background. My father was an engineer and he imbibed a bit of himself in me, so much that I wanted to study engineering. In 2016, I was fortunate to be invited to an event where a particular community decided to enhance the Sustainable Development Goal 5 by making women in that community to sign a charter to ensure the goal works in our various spheres across board.
We are not competing with the men because they are very important, but we want to ensure women also take their place in the society.
What is your contribution towards gender equality?
I started on a general platform by reaching out to girls in primary and secondary schools by teaching them sex education. I adopted a school, Young Leaders International School and, today, it has been embedded into the curriculum. We had books where a child of 18 months can be taught sexual education because we had cases where children were sexually harassed.
Then later I moved into the business area and sought ways where female businesses could be sustainable and also encouraged women to start up something.
I joined a group called Total Women Experience where we focused on teaching women to be total, and I was focused on teaching women on home economics in Nigeria, Ghana, UK and U.S. At one point I realised we need to take this message into the oil and gas industry.
This instigated another research of mine that gave birth to WEOG.
I studied at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria. I have a background in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). I wanted to study engineering but was given a different course which I rejected and I was given an option to study computer science or mathematics. So, along the line, I went for a seminar organised by the Dean of Mathematics that focused on how one can be relevant having studied Maths, so I decided to go for it. I tried to change to Computer Science and Petroleum Engineering later but the plans didn’t work. So I made sure all my electives were engineering courses and I would go to the department and seat as students take their courses. So I did courses in civil, chemical, electronic engineering and eventually, I did my project in chemical engineering using mathematics to solve all engineering problems.
I have an MBA in Operational Research in Management and a Doctorate of Business Administration DBA in view, but my focus is on oil and gas.
So what is your advice to women, especially those in male-dominated fields trying to create a niche for themselves?
My advice is don’t do it on your own. When you work alone you can walk fast, but together, you go far. Associate yourself with an advocacy voice, don’t allow yourself to be shut down, do a lot of reading and research, make sure you have a mentor that has scaled that point either from afar or a close relationship.
Stay focused, consult God before you do things, go for knowledge, because you could lose a lot if you don’t have these.
How can the government help women in your industry?
We want to have quota for women in the industry, the quota for contract and allocation to deserving and qualified women in the industry. We want it signed into necessary policies and laws to protect its sustainability.
For women in corporate organisations, sign them into boards, give them management opportunities. WEOG is also available to checkmate excesses.
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