I’m often invited to speak at various conferences and contribute to publications on the topic of gender diversity and inclusion in the oil and gas industry. It’s a huge honor to be asked to share my opinion on this critical issue, and I always want to make valuable contributions to my industry. But these invitations would be even more welcome if I were asked to contribute on issues around the oilfield equipment and services sector — my area of expertise. This is indicative of a larger issue within oil and gas culture, and while we are working to address the gender gap, we could, unintentionally, be going about it the wrong way.
Many times, the request is to discuss “Women’s Issues” at an industry conference. Or share a personal testimony of how I have persevered through the challenges of being a woman in this industry and arrived in a prominent position. I know that many of my female colleagues receive the same requests. While we all strive to contribute in positive ways to the industry and there is value in sharing these experiences, we also have a great deal more to offer — our expertise, knowledge and experience.
Want to understand how BP is making unprecedented discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico — while simultaneously announcing significant commitments to sustainable emissions reductions? Ask Susan Dio, Chairman and President of BP America, and Starlee Sykes, President, Gulf of Mexico & Canada, BP.
Want to understand how Occidental is thinking long-term for their shareholders with plans to be carbon neutral, capturing greenhouse gases equivalent to all the emissions arising from its operations, its supply chain and the use of the oil and gas it produces? Ask Vicki Hollub, CEO, Occidental Petroleum.
Want to understand how Chevron is working to reduce offshore drilling and development costs, utilizing the existence of neighboring producing facilities to reduce the time between discovery and production, making the investment in new discoveries more competitive? Ask Liz Schwarze, Vice President of Global Exploration, Chevron Upstream.
While we are in a constant state of working to increase the numbers of women in our industry, there are many female leaders and subject matter experts who have contributions to make above and beyond the discussion of “women’s issues.” Because they aren’t “women’s issues,” they are “culture issues.”
We’ve done the studies. We have the data. We know that a significant percentage of women — including but not limited to those in STEM fields — leave the workforce due in large part to a lack of flexibility in their work environment, missing mentorship programs and a desire to make meaningful contributions.
You know who else says this? Millennials. All of them.Today’s workforce is laser-focused on choosing a workplace with strong culture, flexibility and meaningful contributions to society. These environments include those with parental leave (not maternity leave) policies, flex and work from home time, advocacy and sponsorship programs.These aspects are inclusive to women and men who are equally engaged in professional development while maintaining a personal life, whatever that life looks like. These are the culture issues we need to address.
How are we as an industry going to recruit top talent to meet the constantly transitioning and dynamic challenge of powering the world? Only as an industry with a culture that recognizes our female leaders as subject matter experts, and not masters at navigating work-life balance, will we lead through the energy transition. Without this, we will continue to miss out on top talent from the approximately 47 percent of the U.S. workforce that is female.The global community is moving forward in breaking cultural norms and biases, and our industry needs to do the same.
We could never adequately recognize the women who spent their entire professional careers working to be recognized on the same level as their peers based on their expertise and accomplishments. Thanks to those women, we now have an opportunity to drive a stronger culture. We are experts in our field. And we’ll work side by side with our male colleagues to create a culture that will continue to bring top talent to the oilfield. Just don’t ask us to talk about “women’s issues.”
About the author: Leslie Shockley Beyer is President of the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (PESA) in Houston. In this role, Beyer leads strategic and operational development of PESA’s programs, expansion, and execution of its mission in support of oilfield services and equipment organizations. Highlights of Beyer’s career include 15 years in Washington, D.C. serving in the U.S. Senate, multiple presidential campaigns, the White House – Executive Office of the President, U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Beyer holds a BA in Latin American Studies and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin. She serves on the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston, IPAA/PESA Education Advisory Board and the World Petroleum Congress 2020 Committee.