Only 15% of the Oil Industry is Women — Here's How We Can Fix That, According to New Study

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger

Although the oil and gas industry is currently among the most profitable, oil and gas companies have struggled to attract and retain women. According to a diversity study done by the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (PESA) , organizations can do much more to advance women into leadership positions.

While women comprise 47 percent of the overall United States workforce, they make up just 15 percent of the oil and gas sector, the research found. 

Specifically, women comprise just 16 percent of the service, manufacturing and supply sector of the industry, and only eight percent of U.S.-based technical operational roles, such as manufacturers or field engineers. 

The percentage of women in U.S.-based business support roles (such as roles in human resources and legal departments) is significantly higher at 31 percent. Yet, the majority of the study's respondents have less than 21 percent of women in top leadership positions in support functions. Because of the glass ceiling limiting women's opportunities, many women don't stick around in the industry for very long.

An increase in in-flow of female talent is critical for companies to achieve gender equality; but it's also important for oil and gas companies to understand why outflow is so high in order to control it and boost in-flow at the same time. However, when PESA asked organizations why women are leaving, 51 percent of the respondents admitted to not actively tracking why women have been voluntarily exiting their companies. 

Those that do track and manage attrition found these three main reasons as to why women leave:

  1. Limited career opportunities
  2. A lack of flexible work programs

  3. A lack of effective sponsorship and mentoring

PESA recommends that companies scale the few existing programs across the sector that seek to improve gender equality and the advancement of women into leadership positions.

For example, here are five efforts that companies can take more seriously: 

  1. Have C-level endorsed gender diversity strategies

  2. Offer six or more weeks of paid primary caregiver parental leave

  3. Present learning and development initiatives targeted at inclusion and diversity

  4. Provide basic flexible work programs like telecommuting

  5. Develop more mentorship programs and actively track female participation

What women want in the oil and gas industry isn't unlike what working women across all industries want

A 2013 Catalyst survey found that 83 percent of working women who had access to flexible working arrangements aspired to senior executive- or CEO-level positions, while just 54 percent of women without flexibility could say the same. That's because women are evidently more ambitious in all kinds of workplaces that offer flexible options.

Women, in short, need to not only have access to predominantly male-dominated industries like oil and gas in order for these companies to achieve gender equality, but they also need the fair benefits and equal opportunities to keep them there.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.