The fourth industrial revolution is not only about furthering the needs of our economies, but also about ensuring sustainability and resilience for our people and our planet.
The energy industry is the heartbeat of our modern world, as it continues to propel economies, infrastructure and transport, never has so much been dependent on one industry. From smarter engines to the role of artificial intelligence, the industry is adapting for the future. However, as it leaps forward in areas like carbon capture, there are area that continues evading grasp, such as gender equality. The energy industry ranks 8 out of 9 industries surveyed by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in relation to gender diversity, being ahead of construction only. With just 22 per cent of its workforce being female, it has a long way to go in comparison to Health & Social Work (60 per cent) and Education (55 per cent). The challenge increases with seniority, as women in the workforce gradually decrease from 25 per cent to 17 per cent between middle management and senior leadership. Upon further scrutiny, we find that fieldwork has even more to contend with, as on average females account for just 10 per cent.
Why does the industry face such challenges? For some, the answer is simply that energy has been male dominated since the beginning of time and it will take a lifetime to change that. For others, several factors make the energy industry an unappealing career choice… Globally, the number of females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education is around 20-30 per cent, compared to their overall participation in tertiary education, which is on average between 50-60 per cent. With fewer women in the talent pool at the beginning, there are fewer at the end, meaning fewer for the energy industry to target for technical roles.
Additionally, the perception of the industry for both men and women, is that it is male dominated. Coupled with the lack of female role models, women do not feel encouraged to enter the field. An overall perception of lack of support, diversity and family-friendly policies, fuels the lack of interest among women to begin their careers in energy and pursuing them to the top.
Furthermore, men perceive women as less flexible and therefore less suitable to certain roles. With an already low number of women at the top, there is less representation in the decision making process on policies and promotions to counteract this view. Speaking with Reem Al-Ghanim, Diversity & Inclusion at Saudi Aramco, she shares some of the initiatives energy companies can adopt to encourage women in the industry.