The offshore oil and gas industry in the United Kingdom is making a recruitment push in an effort to diversify its workforce. If the sector’s leadership is any indication, it will serve as an excellent place for women throughout the UK to realize their ambitions.
After a report released last year found that the United Kingdom’s offshore oil and gas industry would need to hire over 40,000 people by 2035 in order to meet the country’s growing energy demands, the sector has been scrambling to make new hires. Specializing in everything from cybersecurity, to data science, to nanotechnology, these future recruits will enable the industry to scale up and provide the infrastructural support needed to produce enough energy for a growing UK population.
Meeting such an ambitious hiring goal will require oil and gas companies to reach out to talented people of all races, genders, and backgrounds. A diverse employee base makes for more innovation and faster upskilling — nothing illustrates that better than the industry’s current leadership. As Katy Heidenreich argues in her new book, The Oil Industry’s Best Kept Secret, the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry is a place where ambitious women have and can continue to thrive.
Diversity Leads to Innovation
Heidenreich has served in leadership positions around the world, from Azerbaijan to the United States. Her experience has brought her into contact with many other accomplished women in the oil and gas industry, many of whom she interviewed for her book. She points out that greater diversity isn’t about generating positive PR for the industry — it has a demonstrated positive effect on quality of leadership.
“Women can bring different leadership skills and behaviors, but it’s not just about diversity of gender, it’s about diversity of thought — more balanced teams make better decisions,” Heidenreich writes. With the industry looking to transform itself in ways both big and small, including low-carbon initiatives and improved access to clean energy, there’s never been a time when bold and innovative new practices have been more important.
On the whole, Heidenreich’s book paints the British oil and gas industry as a hospitable place for women. One of the book’s subjects is Lauren Hughes, a field specialist for wireline services at GE subsidiary Baker Hughes. Hughes says that at the Canadian rig she worked on, “I didn’t feel I was treated any differently; if anything it’s usually people being nicer to you. I didn’t really think about the fact that it was male dominated.”
All the same, there remains a popular image of oil and gas as rugged, masculine, and unwelcoming to women. As of right now, women still make up only 25% of the industry’s workforce. The hope of Heidenreich and others is that as ideas about gender roles shift, so too will the perception that women cannot or should not participate in highly physical forms of labor, or in lines of work that demand a significant amount of time away from home.
Caroline Gill, a lead geologist at Shell UK, said that her demanding job hasn’t been an impediment to her responsibilities as a mother because she and her husband have remained flexible about their respective work/life balances. “As a couple, we both have the flexibility to work at home and we can pick up any outstanding work once our children are in bed. It’s totally an equal partnership — we both do our fair share,” Gill told Heidenreich. “Even when we’re working long hours, it doesn’t impact family life.”
Transforming Oil and Gas
A growing number of women and minorities in the oil and gas workforce is just one of the many ways in which the industry is changing. As Heidenreich points out, hers is an industry “in flux,” working to support new, renewable energy sources while continuing to supply half the world’s power.
Adapting to this changing world will require new practices not just in corporate offices, but in on-the-ground practices. That’s why Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. helps help oil and gas businesses around the world reduce the environmental impact of their work through innovative dust control products and application programs.
Midwest can help industry leaders manage their dust emissions with products like EK35® and EnviroKleen®. These non-toxic, non-corrosive, and environmentally friendly products seal fugitive particles within road aggregate while strengthening the existing surface.
What’s more, you can rely on Midwest to handle the application ourselves — we have over 40 years experience working for oil and gas companies to deliver stronger, more effective roads. The result is less maintenance, fewer man-hours spent on ineffective practices like watering, and a smaller environmental impact.
As Heidenreich and her colleagues recognize, transforming an entire industry isn’t easy. But transforming your worksite into a dust-free zone can be a whole lot easier with a dust control program from Midwest.