As we witness the energy market grow and evolve to meet the increased supply and demand, we are also experiencing another change; increased diversity in the workforce. While many companies recognise that a varied workforce makes for more qualified and innovative staff, there is still a way to go for the energy industry to be fully diversified.
Speaking at the ‘Diversity in Energy’ Conference at Gastech 2018, Gastech Insights spoke with Catherine Halpin, Chief Executive Officer at The Quad Business Towers to hear her valuable insights into the industry.
Gastech Insights: Recently we have seen more and more women filling the senior roles within organisations. How would you say the energy industry is shaping up for female professionals?
Catherine Halpin: I believe that there is a noticeable increase and it’s extremely positive to read about this move forwards on a global scale. In the past few years, I personally have worked and negotiated with more women in senior positions, so it’s not just an abstract idea, it can really be seen day to day. I think there is still some way to go, and we need to remember that one or two women at the table may still not be equal participation. But for me the current climate is positive and the opportunity is definitely there for female professionals to make a meaningful and permanent impact.
Gastech Insights: In terms of initiatives driving diversity in the energy sector, are there any that stand out which are really making an impact?
Catherine Halpin: I am based in Malta, where the government are currently implementing a number of changes to make the workplace more inclusive and easier to access. I think that support like this at a government level helps the industry to recruit a more diverse workforce.
Within the energy sector, most large companies have some form of diversity policy including networking, mentoring programmes, return to work programmes and so on. I think these are hugely positive. It’s important to remember that initiatives on their own don’t change the culture of the workplace. Follow-up is needed to make sure that other employees understand the benefit of diversity, support the measures, and don’t feel that they are being penalised unfairly themselves. Training in Unconscious Bias can be quite helpful to promote awareness.
Gastech Insights: In your opinion, what can energy companies do to create greater diversity in the workplace?
Catherine Halpin: For me, it’s a top-down approach. It requires clear and genuine support from the board and visible championing by senior management. And then as I mentioned before, there needs to be follow-up throughout the company so that everyone is aware they are really on a level playing field.
Our industry can be tricky because there is intense project work, 24/7 operations, offshore working and so on, so there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. But the tools are there for any company that really wants to embrace diversity.
I do think there’s an added benefit for energy companies who engage with universities because the road starts there. I believe if more female students understand that it’s perfectly normal to enter oil and gas, or energy, then they will be more likely to choose it.
Gastech Insights: Are projects in the industry, much like your ElectroGas Malta facility, seeing more diversity throughout the complete process?
Catherine Halpin: I was very proud of ElectroGas Malta to be leading such a truly diverse project. There were around fifteen different nationalities involved as large players within the project; either as shareholders, clients, EPC contractors, O&M contractors, advisors and financiers. We had female gender representation throughout almost every level of the project from senior management to graduate engineers, which was in excess of any project I have worked on previously.
Having such a diverse team, we definitely encountered cultural and language barriers. This project was bespoke and had numerous interface points to be designed between each plant area. However, a spirit of challenge and competition gave rise to creativity, and the benefit of having such a diverse pool of experience meant that effective solutions were found for each and any issue that arose.
Gastech Insights: Why are events like ‘Diversity in Energy’ so important?
Catherine Halpin: I think that the industry is moving towards increased diversity, but there is still a long way to go before it is ‘normal’. The Diversity in Energy event is important to encourage debate and to create awareness, allowing us all to take back new learning and implement better practices within our own areas of influence.
If you would like to hear more on diversity, register to attend Gastech 2018 taking place on 17-20th September. Do not miss out on the incredible 4-day event!
Image courtesy of The Quad Business Towers
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