After 20 years: What has changed in the energy industry and why it can’t stop there

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Emma Wild, Partner, Head of Upstream Oil and Gas, KPMG
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When people learn that I am an engineer working in the energy industry, I am generally asked one of two questions:  “Are there many women doing what you do?” or ”Why is petrol so expensive?” Sometimes I am asked: “What made you decide you wanted to do that?”  The first two questions are infuriating, particularly when they sound like a broken record being played out over 20 years, but I am always keen to answer the third. 

I love being involved in an industry at the heart of the development of society and which impacts on every person on the planet, the fact that the industry is global, which has allowed me the opportunity to venture to most corners of the globe, and that it never gets dull!  From black swan events, such as supply interruptions due to the Arab Spring to the spectacular increases in output from the US shale revolution, the industry’s ability to embrace change and uncertainty - particularly now as we transition the global energy mix to a lower carbon model - reassures me that the day job will forever be fascinating.

But perhaps one aspect of change for which the industry has a less than stellar reputation, and would be minded to improve on quite significantly, is its generally woeful statistics on diversity (women make up only 19% of the energy industry globally).  In terms of female engineers, the energy industry is one of the most poorly represented sectors, and so I guess brings me back to the first question above, and why after more than two decades the question still gets asked!

Whilst the current numbers are poor, unlike twenty years ago, diversity is genuinely a top priority for most energy company CEO’s.  Sure, there has been variation in the speed at which the issue rose to prominence in the boardroom, with some taking up the charge many years ago while others perhaps only just now recognising the benefits of diverse teams and leadership. It’s clear to me that CEOs now have an aligned view that attracting diverse talent and supporting their development is a priority. Success in doing this will build a strong pipeline of diverse leaders and with time move the needle on the proportion of female executives in energy companies. CEOs recognise the huge economic advantage of diverse teams and leadership.  This is a great step for the sector and, while there is a lot to do, we are seeing exciting momentum and change as a result.

If I could also offer some advice for women in the energy industry, or thinking of entering the industry:  Take control of your career, seek out experiences and challenge yourself – if you do, I am sure your career will be exciting and rewarding.  In many ways, you have a joint responsibility to do this, while your organisation should create an environment where you feel empowered to progress in your careers at all levels.  This is truly an exciting time to be part of an industry undergoing significant transformation and change.  We are embarking on an unprecedented transformation, diversifying and transitioning towards decarbonisation, and building energy companies of the future, and we need the best and brightest talent to do this!  I am hopeful that the messaging we are hearing from the very top will be the driver to access all the possible (and diverse) talent out there.

Hear Emma Wild discuss "The Diversity Champions' Panel: How Are Industry Leaders Supporting the Move Towards Greater Diversity?" at the 'Diversity in Energy' Conference at Gastech 2018. Do not miss out on the incredible 4-day event, register now to attend!

Image courtesy of KPMG