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BP Says Boosting Gender Diversity and STEM Pathways Crucial For ‘Big Oil’

Improving gender diversity and attracting millennials to science and engineering career pathways are business imperatives for the oil and gas sector, according to Dame Angela Strank, energy giant BP’s Chief Scientist and Head of Downstream Technology.

As “Big Oil” continues its own introspection at a time of relatively stable oil prices, a key theme at IHS CERA Week, in Houston, U.S., Strank, recently made a Dame – the feminine form of address for the British honor of a knighthood – for her services to the oil industry and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM], says industry stakeholders have to engage female and young recruits at every level with inclusiveness having improved exponentially over the last few decades.

“If the industry continues to work on the ‘I’ bit, the ‘D’ bit usually follows. I feel ‘inclusiveness’ furthers ‘diversity.’ We need to pitch STEM career opportunities to a diverse pool of recruits much more aggressively, and catch them young to build interest and fascination.”

Strank says the oil and gas industry is nothing like it was when she started out on her professional journey. “The glass ceiling effect was glaringly visible when I first harbored aspirations of becoming a scientist growing up in 1960s England, inspired by my father who was an engineer and an architect. When I was studying for my graduate degree in geology in the 1970s, I was the only woman in a class of 40.

“When applying for my first job in 1973, I received rejection letters from prospective employers saying they would not offer me employment because the job was better suited for a man. The odd embarrassed human resource officer or two even expressed regret in writing that the chauvinists had prevailed in scuppering my job application. This is unthinkable in 2018.”

In order to distinguish herself, Strank had to approach her ambitions differently. “So I did a PhD in Micropaleontology, which is the study of tiny fossils caught up in the drill cuttings. When they come to the surface, the paleontologists date the fossils, and tell the driller where they are in the rock succession so that they can drill the well safely and make sure they test the reservoirs correctly.”

It was a job that she could do from an onshore lab. “Rigs were maritime vessels and back in the day women were not allowed to go to sea by law. Will power, hard work and a love for science ensured my entry into the oil industry via BP.”

Of course, women are now employed across all energy functions but developing a specialism still matters.

The head of downstream technology whose division was credited by BP CEO Bob Dudley at CERA Week, as one that “funds the billions of dollars the company pays its shareholders in dividends” – says industry aspirants would should take heed.

“When you have a specialism – and it’s much sought after – it enriches your career. Without doing that PhD, I would have found it difficult to get a job in the energy industry.”

Source: Forbes

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