Petrotech 2019 – Theme session : WINNERS- Women in Energy

Anirban Mukherjee, Partner in the Energy practice of BCG, started the discussion by emphasizing the persistent issue of gender diversity. The Panelists included Dr Alka Mittal, Director HR, ONGC, Ms Maartje Driessens, GM Strategy Port Acu Brazil, Ms Lori Motherwell, GM Shell, Ms Elizabeth Marabwa, Chief Director of the Dept. of Energy in South Africa, Ms Rebecca Fitz, Senior Director, BCG and Dr. NS Rajan, IDFC.

The moderator started the discussion by emphasizing the persistent issue of gender diversity. Women in oil and gas sector are very low as compared to other sectors. There’s an underrepresentation of women in leadership in the section with global average of 17% and is further lower in India with 5%. This issue can be solved with actions along recruitment, pay parity, retention, advancement, representation and perception. The industry needs policy interventions at each stage, especially at the mid-management level where there is maximum attrition. There are efforts being made to retain more women in the industry, such as, increasing maternity leaves and flexibility programs. These are being implemented both by the government and the private sector.

Panelists of the Theme Session

Maartje Oriessens, GM Strategy Port acu Brazil, started off the discussion by saying that there are improved statistics of participation of women in her line of work – 35% women and 18% in the leadership of the workforce. Their equality strategy focuses on not just gender, but also race and age mix. She emphasized that the education level is key to predict the share of women working in the industry. Thus, it is instrumental that education and technical skills are being imparted to the female workforce.

Lori Motherwell, GM Shell, said that in Shell too, the female representation is better than the global industry average. At midcareer level, however, there are maximum dropouts. So, it is crucial that the focus shifts to bringing female talent back to the industry. This can be achieved by some of the institutional initiatives such as flexible work hours, limited corporate travel, leveraging technology that requires minimum logistical issues, providing a safe workplace and creating an inclusive environment.

ONGC Director HR addressing the gathering at the session

Dr Alka Mittal, Director HR of ONGC, said that the industry is committed towards maintaining gender diversity. Representation of women in the workforce is a big concern which is even emphasized in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. There is a low participation of women in the labour market which further shrinks in the O&G sector and further still in the technical fields of the industry. There are also big challenges in retaining the women workforce, esp. on site workplaces. Such locations are in remote area, they have late shift timings and have physically taxing activities. There is a perceptive limitation to these opportunities. She said that there are a few key areas which can be focused upon for increasing women participation for e.g., facilitating policies, creation of opportunities, sensitizing women in career centric roles, targeted hiring, trainings, mentorships and offering opportunities to women in the industry. In her closing remarks, she said that there should be drive from within for women to succeed in challenging roles as well as encouragement from the organization.

Elizabeth Marabwa, Chief Director of the Dept. of Energy in South Africa, mentioned that women in their day to day chores take millions of decisions related to energy needs and access. Hence, it is crucial that we empower women and bring them to decision making roles. She stressed that policy alone is not sufficient for this goal unless complemented with measurement and accountability. Easy access to information can also help in making opportunities available to women. This would help them to assess opportunities being offered in different areas.

Rebecca Fitz, Senior Director at BCG Center for Energy Impact, said that the world is witnessing a low participation of women in industries. This can be improved with targeted recruitment, training and sponsorship and bringing transparency around pay. She emphasized on retaining women workforce especially post childbirth. Providing time off career to both genders can help women to continue her professional role. Efforts should be made in maintaining adequate composition in the work force. In this, male colleagues play a critical role. While there are some tactical levers, there are socio economic levers available as well that can be used in maintaining gender diversity in the workforce.

Dr. NS Rajan from IDFC, emphasized that the population mix has close to 50% women, and hence we are losing on potential 50% of available talent. It is essential that we have women in board room so that there is a diversity of thoughts which would help in better decision making. While we should be embracing diversity, males should assume sponsorship roles for women. He also said that articulating a policy with clarity for retaining women workforce is important. He talked about providing equal and safe platform to women workforce. He also said decision making should be such that it is equally oriented towards both the genders.

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