Female Representation in Oil, Gas on the Rise

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In reviewing current employment trends within the oil and gas industry, more women are indeed looking to the oilpatch for technical career opportunities and career advancement. This shift was highlighted by the majority of energy professionals that participated in the inaugural Global Diversity and Inclusion Report

The study, conducted jointly by BP and Rigzone, examined female representation in the energy workplace from the perspective of 3,000 oil and gas professionals.

While 62 percent of respondents felt the number of women working in oil and gas has increased globally, 80 percent of oil and gas professionals in South America agreed with this statement compared to only 52 percent in Europe, the lowest proportion from any work region.

Respondents based Africa (60 percent) and Asia (64 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that women have equal opportunities to men for advancement to management positions in the oil and gas industry compared to 54 percent globally.

Canada had the highest proportion of respondents (78 percent) who said career prospects had improved for women, while European-based energy professionals had the lowest proportion of respondents (35 percent) that believed gender discrimination was common in the industry.

Meanwhile, respondents in the U.S. were more positive about the career prospects for women in the industry, with 75 percent believing they have improved in recent years. A slightly greater percentage also agreed that gender diversity has improved in recent years.


While 72 percent of respondents believe the oil and gas business remains male-dominated, the majority of energy professionals said it was important for the industry to stay attractive to women. This is significant, given nine out of 10 survey respondents were male.

“Attracting the best and brightest talent is one of BP’s key objectives, and our ability to compete and thrive globally depends on that,” said BP’s Cheryl McKinney, vice president strategy and commercial business East of Rockies. “A critical component of this is our ‘hire to retire’ mentality. We invest in our employees’ professional development during all stages of their careers.”

Like one-third of the respondents, McKinney works at a large company. She holds a degree in chemical engineering and has three decades of experience with BP including 20 years of in-plant refining experience. For McKinney, working in a large company exposed her to diverse backgrounds, genders, cultures and experiences. It also offered many options as she advanced her career.

“I’ve been working in the industry for 30 years and for a long time I really was the only woman in the meetings. Today the ratio of men to women has changed significantly, to the point where you’re seeing 30 to 50 percent women involved in the discussions. Historically the most senior roles had a lower representation of females, but even that’s changing. Today, BP has about 17 percent women at the executive level.”

Getting to the executive level is typically a case of 50 percent capability and hard work and 50 percent “right place, right time”, she said.

“Early on, I found a great combination of commercial and technical skills was valued by the corporation. So, I had an offering that had value, but this by itself wasn’t enough. You had to have exposure to the decision makers to get to the next opportunity. I took on project assignments that I found interesting, and these gave me that exposure.”

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