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Editorial comment

At the end of last year, the World Petroleum Congress took place in Houston, Texas, US. If you were at the show, you may have picked up a copy of the December issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering (as well as our sister publications, World Pipelines and LNG Industry). Another interesting report available at the show was the second edition of a joint study from the World Petroleum Council and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which examines attitudes towards gender balance in the oil and gas sector.1

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While the world has changed significantly since the first edition of the report was published back in 2017, the main headline from ‘Untapped Reserves 2.0: Driving Gender Balance in Oil and Gas’ was that the percentage of women working in the oil and gas industry remains unchanged at just 22%.

Although the lack of progress on this front may be somewhat attributable to the global pandemic and associated oil price shock, it is nevertheless disappointing, especially considering that some progress has been made. The report notes that the number of diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies and programmes introduced by companies has risen by approximately 50% since 2017, which would suggest that the sector has strengthened its commitment to act. Other positive signs include the fact that about 67% of the companies surveyed now have a dedicated D&I team (compared to 39% in 2017), and 74% track relevant D&I key performance indicators (up from 40% in 2017). In addition, the CEOs of 77% of the companies surveyed have publicly pledged to meet D&I targets (38% in 2017), and around 70% of employees believe that the industry has improved the way it addresses D&I since 2017.

However, there is clearly a lag between implementation of policies and actual real-world impact, and more must be done to achieve gender parity and to improve diversity. As the world transitions to a cleaner energy future, it’s clear that innovation will be key to success; and innovation requires diversity. The report notes that by creating a more diverse and inclusive culture, oil and gas companies can benefit from a “greater depth and breadth of perspective and can boost business performance.”

It puts forward three elements that it considers essential to forming a successful D&I strategy: implementing foundational D&I policies and programmes; a strategic operating model and interventions to attract, retain and advance diverse staff; and clear, sustained commitment from senior leadership. Its research suggests six ways to address the ongoing challenges that are likely to have significant impact, namely: reinforcing leadership commitment through visible and sustained support; tracking baseline metrics and setting clear goals and targets; ensuring that there is no bias in promotion pathways; empowering employee resource groups to improve programme and policy effectiveness; linking D&I outcomes to capabilities around innovation and adaptation; and actively creating an inclusive environment.

The business case for driving diversity and inclusion is clear, and this will become even more important as the oil and gas sector looks to attract the talent necessary to tackle the challenges of the future, including the energy transition. At a time when it is traditional to make resolutions for the year ahead, perhaps now is the time to place a sharper focus on improving diversity and inclusion within our sector.

1. ‘Untapped Reserves 2.0: Driving Gender Balance in Oil and Gas’, World Petroleum Council and Boston Consulting Group, (7 December 2021).

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