An appeal to the majority – addressing Gender Inclusive Ways of Working in Oil & Gas

Feb 26, 2020

Men will be encouraged to join a new industry project, tasked with creating gender inclusive recommendations tailored for the subsea and ocean-based industries, at this year’s Australasian Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference.

The Gender Inclusive ‘Ways of Working’ (GI-WOW) Project lead Sarah Watson said STEM-based industries were about 84 per cent male, meaning it was a challenge to ensure the task of creating a framework to “even the playing field” for women was not left to the 16 per cent of people most impacted.

“We know the attrition rate for women in mid-career onewards is huge. They start exiting the industry, and there are a range of reasons for this. It may be they have not found opportunities for promotion or face other barriers and obstacles to progressing in their careers –– unconscious gender-bias is a massive contributing factor. It may also be due to not being supported to complete their care-giving role for young children or elderly parents.”

“We call this the leaky pipeline –– and it’s a very leaky pipeline.”

GI-WOW is a project of the WISE Professional Network, which was founded in 2016 and undertook research into the experience of women and people of diversity in the oil and gas industry, in particular subsea engineering.

“Within the benchmarking study we commissioned, it was difficult to get data specific to the subsea and offshore industry. Our focus group studies highlighted both the positive experiences and challenges that were being faced by women in the sector, and provided some key recommendations for us to apply –– resulting in this project.” Ms Watson said.

The WISE Professional Network chair Gail Milne said beyond developing a set of industry recommendations, the body had undertaken many initiatives to attract, retain, develop and promote women in subsea and ocean-based industries.

“Our outreach work with high school students –– the Future Engineers Program –– has been hugely successful. For most of these girls, attending this program hosted by the WISE Professional Network is the first time they’ve been in a room of other girls who also excel in STEM subjects –– an experience that sets them apart from peers.

“Their experience in the classroom is usually of being quite isolated and in the minority so this program shows they are not alone, and they have a bright future ahead of them with multiple career paths to choose from.”

The next task is to encourage the voice of the broader industry to be heard.

“Promoting inclusion and diversity can sometimes be seen as a zero-sum game for people who have been working as part of the 86 per cent majority in this industry. This is not the case, but it has proven a persistent perception.”

“We are looking for input from a cross-section of our industry so the recommendations we develop are supported, reflective and understood. This is the chance for all people to have a say in shaping what our industry looks like.”

The goal of GI-WOW is to establish a draft set of recommendations during calendar 2020, which would also include an information pack to educate and inform people within the industry of the trends and research about the business impact of inclusion and diversity

The project team are industry-based volunteers who depend on gathering support from all players within the industry.

Ms Watson said inviting representatives from all sectors of the industry –– with a focus on the 86 per cent majority of men –– to get involved would ensure the recommendations would have the greatest chance of success.

“This will ensure our industry remains innovative through increasing diversity of thought, as well as fostering a culture that will attract the brightest minds in STEM ­–– regardless of their gender identity.”

Ms Milne and Ms Watson are keynote presenters at the Subsea Forum at the Australasian Oil and Gas Conference on Friday 13 March. To find out more about the WISE Professional Network, visit

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