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How women in energy sector ‘Choose to Challenge’

As the world celebrated international women’s day on March 8, with the theme ‘Choose to Challenge’, the low representation of women in the oil and gas sector was a sore point. Companies like Lekoil are seeking to address this gap with more women filling their management position. It recently appointed Aisha Mohammed-Oyebode as Chairman.

By opening up top management positions to women who have demonstrated competence, LEKOIL Nigeria, an affiliate of AIM-listed Lekoil Limited, says it underscores the need for harmony and balance in doing business.
Other management positions held by women in Lekoil Nigeria include Company Secretary & General Manager, Legal spearheaded by Gloria Iroegbunam, Head, Human Resources & Admin, held by Kike Fajemirokun. Women also hold other top and lower-level positions.

Some other local oil companies are increasingly hiring more women with Oando where women constitute 45 percent of its workforce. Seplat is also amplifying diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Read Also: The PIB: Panacea to the ills of Nigeria’s Oil industry?

Global challenge
According to a recent McKinsey study, in Africa and the Middle East, women make up just 9 percent of senior management positions in the energy industry, with gender diversity decreasing with seniority. Women make up less than 8 percent of technical jobs in the oil and gas industry and women comprise only 3.6 percent of the offshore workforce.

Globally, women make up just 15 percent of the oil and gas sector workforce. In other science-based disciplines, women account for 35 percent of graduates emerging from schools and 57 percent of all college graduates on the average globally.
The gender imbalance in the oil and gas industry has its origins in educational institutions where fewer women than men study STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) based programmes.A 2018 study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 54 percent of post-secondary scholars are female, yet only 27 percent are in the STEM subjects.

The study blamed it on traditional ideas that STEM-related industries are macho-centric. But the oil industry needs more diversified management as studies show, they are more agile, dynamic, and better managed. Secondly, the shrinking talent pool in the sector makes a strong case for inclusivity.

According to a McKinsey study about a decade ago, oil and gas was the 14th most attractive employer among engineering and IT students; now it is 35th hence now is the best time to tap into the pool of highly educated women who continue to excel in their chosen fields.

Making the future brighter
The future of the oil and gas industry belongs to those who challenge the status quo. “I think in the future more doors will be open to women as the world keeps changing and stereotypes which have been held for generations are being abandoned,” said Fajemirokun, who heads Lekoil, human resources, and admin department.

Fajemirokun said the atmosphere at Lekoil, is conducive for women to thrive. “Lekoil continues to work towards a balance between the male and female ratio. We also try to put benefits and measures in place to ensure that those women with families do not feel that they need to decide between family and career.

“We value the input and contributions that women bring to the Company at all levels and will continue to do our bit to balance the ratio as we move forward.”
Gloria Iroegbunam, Company Secretary & General Manager, Legal LEKOIL Nigeria said, “for the most part there is a higher ratio of men to women in the operations and technical roles in the oil and gas industry. However, that ratio closes out when you look at the more administrative functions.”

Gloria who has experience advising on the Acquisitions, Divestitures, Operation and Management of Oil & Gas assets, alternative tax structures for the financing of upstream activity, joint ventures, compliance matters, corporate management governance, and business development has some time under her belt in the industry.

“Regardless of the roles they may occupy, be it technical or administrative, women are found to be very loyal, skilled at multitasking, personally invested in the success of their functions and able to apply their natural efficiency and capacity for emotional intelligence in managing interpersonal relationships with their colleagues,” she said.

There however remains a lot of ground to cover. More girls need to acquire STEM education. The picture of an oil and gas industry dominated by masculinity draped in greasy overalls is no longer tenable. After all, even in the rigs, machines make work less laborious these days.

Additionally, the companies have to be intentional about filling roles with qualified women, and women already in top positions should provide mentoring for others coming behind.

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