Drilling through the gender wall in the Oil & Gas industry

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By Madhu Srivastava

Despite a long (and ongoing) struggle for gender parity at work, many industries and job roles were not equally open and welcoming for women until recently. Traditionally, women were considered suitable for job roles that had fixed working hours, well-defined and comfortable working conditions, and most importantly- social acceptance. However, with the changing social landscape and mindset, the scenario has changed rapidly. Now there is no shortage of success stories of women who defied the social and corporate norms to accept and excel in various job roles considered unsuitable for women 15 years ago. But, not all the industries have got the same success with gender equality.

Oil and gas is primarily a male-dominated industry. Extreme working conditions like high or low temperatures, remote operation sites, and requirement to stay away from family for long periods does not let many women join the industry. Regardless of various industry initiatives to attract more women to join the oil and gas industry, the numbers do not tell a great story. An analysis conducted by LinkedIn in 2015 found that women make up just 26.7% of all oil and gas industry profiles on the professional networking site. This represents the lowest proportion in any of the dozen industries examined for this study. Healthcare has about 59.8% women while there were about 30.6% women with technology profiles.Arpita Pandey

Another lady in the Men’s World?
Arpita Pandey, Petroleum Engineer at Cairn India

Arpita Pandey, started her journey with Cairn in June 2015. Prior to Cairn, she was associated with another Oil and Gas organization for 3 years. Moving to Cairn was all together a new and a different experience.

“I still remember my first day in Barmer when Arunabh Parashar introduced me to the field team- ‘One more lady in the Men’s World’, and my journey at Cairn begun. I was new to people, to the working condition,everything was too new for me at Cairn. But People of Cairn did not let me feel the same for a longer time. When I look back now I find my ‘Cairn Barmer’ journey as one of the most adventurous experience of my life. My bosses at Cairn have always been very supportive. They have always given me opportunities to learn new things and implement it on work. I am a proud Petroleum Engineer. It is only because I have got such a nice platform to perform. At Cairn, I got a chance to work on many other Petroleum Operations as well. I worked at isolated locations as well and never felt unsafe or uneasy. I believe that we like our work only when we like the surroundings and people around.

Above all, I feel privileged working at Cairn. This organization made me more robust and diligent. Now I am nowhere lesser than a Man…

The above scenario does not paint the brightest picture for the industry. However, the silver lining in the cloud is thatour industry has realized the need to have a gender balanced workforce and have taken policy initiatives in the right direction. As a result, we can expect the career prospects for women in the oil and gas industry to improve significantly in the coming days.

Cairn India believes that Diversity and Inclusion are important pillars of a successful and sustainable organization. Women employees play a major role in bringing varied perspectives, collaborative decision making and ideas, and can collectively create superior outcomes for the business. Therefore, the company has in place best-in-class people policies and practices that create a conducive environment and foster a healthy gender diversity in the organization. There is for instance a clear mandate to focus on gender balance while hiring entry level talent from universities as well as lateral talent and also for appointing women in key revenue generating roles at the leadership level.

From Heels to Safety shoes…
Arpita Borthakur, Petroleum Engineer, Cairn India

Arpita recalls 14th July 2014 as her happiest day after being placed at Cairn India Limited. She wasn’t new to the firm as she had interned with the company.

It was during her internship, when she first heard of Barmer. A super exited young girl was all set to explore the oilfield. She had imagined working amidst sandstorms around the well in middle of sand dunes, until she came face to face with the reality.

“This three years long journey has never been a cake walk. Working in the extreme weather conditions, climbing up and down cellar pits was more like an adventure every day. These years havetaught mea lot, not only about the Oil and Gas industry but also about life as a whole. I learnt to work with different people in an industry dominated by men, at times even supervising them. ”

The company has in place best-in-class and progressive women-friendly policies in place. These include enhanced maternity leave of 6 months, adoption leave and paternity leave. Gender parity and inclusive opportunities are amongst our top organizational priorities. There is also a strong emphasis on preparing women for future leadership roles. For example-Tarang is a developmental program for women in leadership roles in Cairn India. Started as a program for individual development, it now covers the entire women workforce at the company, providing training on financial acumen, strategic thinking and business management.

Cairn India works towards reinforcing a culture where diversity of gender, thoughts, experiences, ethnicity, personal orientation, dis/ability status is valued by one and all. Cairn Diversity and Inclusion Council (D&I) has been tasked with responsibility of architecting the overall Diversity and Inclusion strategy for the Organization. It aims at achieving greater diverse representation all across the organization at all levels and geographies, through well-defined initiatives

Women bring a new dimension to thought leadership, execution and outlook to the business. They add immense value to projects and create teams that deliver outstanding results. Global insights demonstrate a strong positive correlation between gender diversity and business performance. Energy companies would do well to ensure more women on across the organization- not just in corporate offices but also on remote sites.

(Madhu Srivastava is the Deputy Head – HR& Admin, Cairn India and Head- Diversity & Inclusion, Vedanta Group)

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