Women in the Oil and Gas Industry


Oil prices continue to fluctuate, but one thing has remained relatively constant in this sector: a need for a strong pipeline of talent. However, who is getting hired and promoted in this sector creates an interesting discussion. As the benefits of a gender-diverse workforce become more apparent, the oil and gas industry struggles to attract and advance women throughout its ranks.

More and more people in the oil and gas industry are nearing retirement age, and the domestic output in this sector has been increasing in an effort to lessen dependence on foreign distributors. While this is an industry with a strong gender imbalance, the good news is that there are many strong role models and programs in place to promote diversity moving forward. 

Oil and Gas Companies Are Rooted in Tradition

There’s no doubt that it has been an uphill battle for women working in the oil and gas industry. Simply put, it’s an industry deeply rooted in tradition that has been known as a “guys” industry for a long time. Particularly at the management level, the percentage of women employees is much smaller than in other sectors. However, that figure is growing, especially in O&G management and O&G accounting.

The growth in gender diversity is encouraging. According to data from Catalyst and S&P Global, women make up nearly one-quarter of oil and gas employees worldwide. While 17% of senior and executive-level positions comprise women, 27% of entry-level jobs are filled by women candidates.

The number of women rising through the ranks in the O&G industry is increasing for one simple reason. There are more women than ever taking jobs in this sector, so there are finally women in positions to promote!

The Growth of Jobs in the Energy Sector

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, over half a million jobs were added back to the U.S. energy sector in the second half of 2020 alone. This industry employs 6.8 million Americans and accounts for over 7% of all new jobs nationwide. Globally, jobs in the energy sector are projected to increase from 18 million in 2021 to 26 million by 2050.

Most of the positions in the oil and gas industry are onshore, and many are nontechnical, including areas such as finance, law, business development, and administrative support. Women make up half of this country’s talent pool, so companies in this sector mustn’t overlook the opportunity to take advantage of a vital resource for filling critical roles. 

The Benefits of Gender Diversity for the Oil and Gas Industry

Diversity in business isn’t about meeting a quota. Oil and gas companies are encouraged to hire or promote the best candidate for every position, not make choices based on statistics or percentages. People want to be hired and promoted based on their merits, but they have to be given a seat at the table before that can happen. Research shows that making gender diversity is beneficial for companies that make it a priority. 

1. Improved Innovation

Oil and gas companies are in danger of being left behind by alternative energy concerns if they fail to innovate. According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the most significant gains in innovation are achieved by diverse leadership teams.

People with different experiences and backgrounds can often see the same problems in different ways and come up with unique solutions, increasing the chances that some innovation initiatives will make a significant difference in business results. 

2. Better Productivity

In the energy sector, productivity levels are vital, and gender diversity can help a business in this industry achieve higher productivity levels. According to research from Harvard Business Review, the most productive companies are also the ones with high levels of gender diversity.  Some of the reasons cited are that a diverse workforce creates an attractive work environment, signals competence to investors, and encourages innovation and collaboration.

O&G geology and engineering operations tend to be more male-driven, only because men tend to have more experience working in the field. When women are given equal opportunities to enter these areas, things will begin to change. 

3. Higher Profits

A more gender-diverse team can also help O&G companies achieve better financial results. McKinsey’s Delivering Through Diversity study reveals that companies with better gender diversity on executive teams are more likely to outperform competitors in terms of profitability. Specifically, the highest-performing companies had more women in revenue-generating roles on their executive teams. 

4. Positive Culture

Lack of diversity can harm a company’s culture. One way to improve the culture in an O&G company is through workforce diversity. Inclusion and equity are helping people of all demographics and backgrounds to feel respected and heard in the workplace. Women are having a positive impact on the O&G industry as a whole.

This sector has historically been inflexible regarding work-life balance. However, the pandemic has allowed for a shift to more remote and hybrid work environments, allowing women to take on more leadership roles and balance work with family life. Further, having more women working in the O&G industry has brought a “softness” to the industry, forcing companies to adopt better conditions for women and maternity policies.

5. Top Talent

A diverse workforce has become increasingly important to job seekers when evaluating career opportunities. Particularly in the case of top female candidates, a company’s existing commitment to diversity can impact its ability to attract and retain talent in crucial areas like engineering, sales, accounting, and geology. 

Making the Oil and Gas Sector More Accessible for Women

The oil and gas industry still has a lot of work to do to create a culture that fully embraces and leverages diversity. Several initiatives are vital to these efforts: senior-level sponsorship, employee engagement, and industry involvement.

Senior leaders in this sector should publicly and enthusiastically support their company’s diversity efforts. Not only should there be women employees and leaders that others can look to as role models, but every leader in the organization should also participate actively in events and training related to diversity and inclusion.

Employees should also be given access to the training and tools that will increase awareness about diversity issues. The right type of training can emphasize some of the barriers women face in this industry and help create a more allyship within organizations. Ongoing education can also help identify and break down long-held biases that make certain positions less accessible for women.

Finally, the oil and gas industry has made significant gains in diversity thanks to various industry and trade organizations aimed at elevating women.

For example, Ally Energy, formerly Pink Petro, is a for-profit company funded by energy industry companies focusing on recruiting women. Women in Oil and Gas Association is a non-profit organization established to encourage women in the energy industry. These are just a couple of examples, and field-specific organizations, such as ones that help people in engineering or accounting in this sector, will also promote diversity.

Become a Member of COPAS

COPAS is the Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies. Members of COPAS are at the forefront of the innovations and changes that define accounting in the petroleum industry. To certify accountants within the oil and gas industry, our organization established its Accredited Petroleum Accountant® (APA®) program in 1996.

By joining COPAS, petroleum accountants achieve increased knowledge and insight, more visibility in the industry, and a platform to collaborate with like-minded professionals. Reach out to us to learn more about becoming a member of COPAS.

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