The findings of a ground-breaking workshop focusing on discrimination issues in the oil and gas industry have been published today by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Aberdeen Section.
‘Breaking the Cycle of Discrimination’, which took place in Aberdeen on 1-2 October 2014, highlighted problems such as cultural and gender discrimination, social bias, bullying in the workplace and importantly, a lack of transparency on these issues from the industry in general.
Amongst the key outcomes was a public call for the oil and gas industry to come together and provide more detailed information on their personnel, including a breakdown of women and other under-represented minorities.
Ella Minty, chair of SPE Aberdeen’s Another Perspective Committee and of ‘Breaking the Cycle of Discrimination: Another Perspective on the Workplace Challenges in the Oil and Gas Industry’ workshop, said: “SPE is a well respected and a significant force within the oil and gas industry worldwide. We should use this position to act as a platform for collaboration and alignment for the industry worldwide on matters related to discrimination.
“Reporting on the breakdown of personnel, in a similar way to annual results and other sensitive financial data, could be a huge step forward towards eliminating discrimination within the industry, as companies would become far more transparent on how their workforce is made up.
“There was discussion on the reluctance and perceived fears companies would have about sharing this type of information however, if SPE were to establish annual release of specific compensation data for the above parties as an industry best practice, this could be the motivator needed to make this information public.”
Gender imbalance was a recurring theme during the two days ‘closed doors’ event. In particular, there are currently serious recruitment issues with regard to the employment of older women. Discrimination even exists within the female population of the industry, with some controversial points being raised such as “overweight women get paid less” and “women who wear make up are paid more”.
Social bias was also found to be an influencing factor, affecting both genders. People are often expected to “choose between career and family life” and some industry employers prefer married individuals for senior roles because “they display stability”.
In terms of recognising and rewarding talent, it was highlighted that promotion within technical disciplines does not occur very frequently and this generally relates more to managerial positions and soft skills.
Ms Minty continued: “The general consensus of the two days is that, despite major efforts being made to address multi-cultural issues, oil companies are still not doing enough.
“Gender inequality is generally the most high profile discrimination issue within the oil and gas industry but it was interesting to hear from those at senior management level that inequality problems are just as prevalent in race, culture, sexuality, marital status and event physical attractiveness.”
A number of specific key actions and recommendations were established throughout the course of the workshop:
1. SPE should make recommendations and lobby the industry’s operators and service companies across the world to compete on employee metrics.
2. Women should be allowed to share the same sleeping offshore accommodation with men, working in back-to-back shifts. Lack of separate sleeping arrangements often acts as a barrier to women’s presence offshore.
3. The “year” experience requirements should be reconsidered by the industry because offshore rotations involve far more working hours in a year than office-based roles.
4. The content and learnings of the workshop should be offered as an SPE training course.
5. SPE should take a stronger role in formulating and enforcing guidelines for international events and exhibitions to eliminate scantily-clad female exhibitors and images of scantily-clad women from all SPE sponsored events.
6. SPE should act as a platform for collaboration and alignment for the industry worldwide on matters related to discrimination.
Ross Lowdon, chairman of SPE Aberdeen, said: “This workshop was instrumental in defining the steps that should be taken to move the oil and gas industry into becoming truly inclusive. It is critical now that we keep up this momentum and develop an action plan which will encourage the conversation and collaboration required to address these issues.”
‘Breaking the Cycle of Discrimination’ took place on 1-2 October at Norwood Hotel, Aberdeen. Amongst the companies represented were Shell, ConocoPhillips, Total, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Oil & Gas UK and Decom North Sea. The workshop took place under Chatham House ‘rules’.
To read the full report on the findings of the workshop, please visit www.spe-uk.org/aberdeen