Written by Veronica Brieno Rankin, LL.M.
From a personal perspective, the title “How women have been influenced by the energy industry” seems intuitively backwards. Shouldn’t it read: “How the energy industry has been influenced by women”? While women are celebrating increased visibility and influence in the energy industry, the ability for female professionals to collectively sway this sector toward one business direction or another still vastly remains on the horizon. How do women arrive at influencing the energy industry? The energy industry must first influence women. Women need not fret; however, as there is living proof this transition is happening right now. We have observed over time that more and more women have been concentrating their professional ambitions toward the energy sector. This would have been extremely difficult to accomplish without the energy industry’s influence on women.
While women have long since conquered equality in many other professions, the energy trade can be perceived as one of the final frontiers. For women to be successful as collective agents of change, it is largely dependent on the willingness of the energy industry to receive their ideas and respective contributions. Since the onset of the modern oil and gas revolution of the 1800’s, the energy industry has expanded its influence on women from perhaps initially serving solely in clerical and administrative capacities. In today’s professional climate, the female presence can be observed spearheading geologic field studies, implementing advanced engineering systems projects, and serving in managerial and executive capacities.
The influence of the energy industry to integrate gender diversity along multiple tiers within the corporate structure did not occur over night. An effort to include women would have necessitated the energy industry to design an ongoing approach to recruit and retain women in this type of workforce over the long term. The initial thrust to influence women to consider a career in energy likely consisted of employing corporate policies that promoted gender equality within the workplace. While this influenced women to broadly seek out the energy industry for prospective employment, there was likely minimal influence for women to serve in a capacity beyond that of customary roles, such as secretaries, occupational nurses, etc. Family-owned small businesses probably celebrated more success in influencing women to expand their professional horizon into areas such as working in the field and playing a more proactive role in managerial-type tasks.
Today, the energy industry has gained credible traction in influencing women to pursue more technically-oriented careers in oil, gas, and power by developing and participating in programs that not only raise awareness that a career in energy is possible for women, but also financially promote women in pursuing education in the sciences and engineering. The energy industry’s influence is readily apparent in multiple initiatives that are aimed toward the female professional. Examples include corporate-funded scholarship programs geared toward women, jointly-funded efforts that offer internships and co-ops in the federal government and/or corporations, and recruitment and retention initiatives that proactively seek women to fill job openings. Because the energy industry has invested financial resources that assist women in achieving their educational goals, they have positively influenced women to map out a successful and prosperous career in energy. Corporations that have integrated more women in the recruitment and hiring process have also influenced women to not only begin a career in energy, but to also serve as a mentor and role model for future female generations. This perpetual motion will no doubt take women in energy to the next level: to be collective agents of influence within the entire business of energy.