Hopefully, by now you have seen the American Petroleum Institute’s (APIs) Power Past Impossible commercials that have been running for just over a year. Why Power Past Impossible? Because for the natural gas, oil and refining industry where some see impossible as a barrier, we see it as an opportunity to achieve. For example, a decade ago the idea of America as a global energy leader was thought impossible. It is a reality today. America’s rise to global energy leadership continues to create economic opportunities and well-paying jobs across the country. Employment in our industry has increased by 500,000 in the last few years to a total of 10.3 million. And the industry’s total impact on gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.3 trillion in 2015, which is larger than the GDP of Spain.
According to an IHS Markit study, through 2035 nearly 1.9 million direct job opportunities will be available in the oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries; close to 707,000 of those job opportunities are projected to be filled by blacks and Hispanics, and more than 290,000 by women. These numbers are conservative, based on current participation. However, we expect them to grow more significantly through outreach and education.
Part of our challenge is a lack of awareness among women about the opportunities and making sure that women know that today’s natural gas and oil industry is technologically advanced and forward-looking. As an industry, we are applying artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics throughout the energy value chain for hydrocarbon exploration and production, to improve productivity and cost-effectiveness while reducing worker risk. Digitization and robotics technologies are expected to strengthen monitoring and safety throughout our operations. A few months ago, two API member companies launched the world’s first digital drilling vessel, targeted to achieve 20 percent operational expenditure reduction across the targeted equipment and improve drilling efficiency.
These steps toward unlocking the immense potential of digital solutions throughout the industry are just a few examples of what we all know to be true ― the fourth industrial revolution will be transformative. This technological revolution that has already begun will alter the way we live and work. It will also provide immense opportunities to attract a much more diverse workforce and welcome even more women.
Another significant attraction is that women are continuing to advance in our industry. Recently, Royal Dutch Shell announced that Gretchen Watkins will become President of its North American operations, and BP America named Susan Dio as Chairwoman and President. They join Julie Robertson, President and CEO of Noble Corporation, and Vicki Hollub, President and CEO of Occidental Petroleum. Women such as Melody Meyer, a retired Chevron executive, who now sits on the boards of BP and National Oilwell Varco, are paving the way for even more women to not just join the ranks but see clear pathways to the upper echelons of leadership in our industry.
While we know there is much more work to do, we are proud of these glass-shattering examples and believe that having larger numbers of women serving as presidents and vice presidents in critical operations and business units demonstrates that we are moving in the right direction. Today, nearly half of all women employed in the industry work in management and professional jobs. As our commercials proclaim, “This isn’t your daddy’s oil.” Yes, there’s more progress to be made ― and it will be made ― yet, it’s clear that at all levels, we are moving in the right direction.
In the years ahead, API will continue to use our Power Past Impossible advocacy campaign to spark the imagination and the interest of the next generation of workers in the oil, natural gas and refining industry; because if our country is to remain a world energy leader, we will require the tremendous ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the entire workforce.
It may be the challenge of our lives to attract and retain the talent, especially the women, who will make us second-to-none in energy production, security, economic prosperity and environmental protection so that we can power past what we consider impossible today.
About the Author: Tyra Metoyer, Manager of External Mobilization for the American Petroleum Institute, serves as the national lead for workforce of the future, STEM and education initiatives, outreach to nontraditional allies, and the Energy Nation program, which is an education and mobilization program for employees of the natural gas and oil industry. Her workforce of the future, STEM and education initiatives are focused internally on helping the industry develop tools and outreach programs to attract and retain a more diverse workforce; and externally, on helping a broad base of nontraditional allies and strategic partners (such as African Americans, Latinos, women, veterans, Native Americans, Millennials, etc.) understand and prepare to take advantage of the range of career opportunities in the oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries.
Photo courtesy of STEM