As the gas industry continues to be exposed to new market dynamics and innovations, energy players are also experiencing development within the workforce. Over the last decade, the energy industry has slowly become more diverse in terms of gender representation.
Gastech Insights: You founded ‘Access for Women in Energy’ back in 2007 – how would you say the energy industry has changed in the last decade?
Dr Carole Nakhle: The energy industry, in general, and the oil and gas industry, in particular, remain largely male-dominated for no obvious reason. Although the situation has improved compared to a few decades ago, the industry still has a long way to go to establish a more balanced gender representation especially in higher echelons, where female representation is well below 20% whether among the private major oil companies, national oil companies or oil field service providers. Supporting and promoting women contribution in all ranks can bring vital new perspectives and reinvigorate the industry’s image that may well have been lacking in ‘traditional oil’, to the industry’s great cost.
What inspired you to join the energy industry?
For someone who was born and grew up during the civil war in Lebanon, in a male-dominated society and family, I always dreamt about doing something different from the then prevailing social norms and explore something bigger than the narrow streets of Beirut. When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, I was too young to assess her policies but I would always watch the TV closely whenever there was news about her. She was different, so were many other women in other typically male-dominated areas that I learned about at school. They were fascinating.
After I completed my Masters’ degree in 1999 after one year of moving to the UK, I was looking for a specialised discipline in Economics for my PhD. I walked into the economics department at the University of Surrey, and by mistake, I entered the Energy Economics room. It was full of men, with not even a single woman. Instead of feeling intimidated, I was actually intrigued. That marked the beginning of my adventure in the energy industry. No regrets!
With more diversity being ever present in the industry, are there any initiatives that really stand out in championing this?
There is clearly a global march towards improving diversity in the energy industry as well as other industries. Think of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for instance. Also, most, if not all, established oil and gas companies have their own diversity programmes. Some countries have legislated quotas for women on boards. And so on. In this respect, a lot is happening in this sphere and I am sure it is heading in the right direction. However, a word of caution: not all such initiatives will be effective and some may even backfire if they are not merit-based.
You are moderating a panel discussion at the ‘Diversity in Energy’ conference at Gastech 2018, why should industry players attend?
Gastech itself is a major industry event, that brings together different players, big and small alike, with different perspectives and experiences, and from all over the world. The Diversity in Energy session covers a subject that is increasingly occupying centre stage in industry discussions, among other economic and technical themes for instance. Diversity policies within companies are being scrutinised and companies’ leaders are increasingly vocal about the efforts their companies are putting to promote diversity within their business. Male dominated panels, which used to be something normal only a few years ago, are looked at with more unease today. The diverse ‘Diversity in Energy’ panel will discuss effective methods to increase diversity within the industry, based on the panellists’ well-established experience. The panel will also tackle the main challenges faced by companies in this sphere and how best to overcome them.
AccessWIE at BP’s Technology Center in Whitchurch Hill, England, following a talk given by Dr Carole Nakhle on energy transition and the importance of gender diversity (8th June 2018).
The interview was first published in Gastech Insights
Dr Nakhle will be moderating the ‘Diversity in Energy‘ panel discussion “The Diversity Champions’ Panel: How Are Industry Leaders Supporting the Move Towards Greater Diversity?” at Gastech 2018, taking place on 17-20 September 2018 in Barcelona.