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Benefits of a Diverse Workforce - Retention and Networking

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

“Welcoming”, “inspiring” and “eye-opening” said participants at AXIS network’s 2nd member’s event of 2019, sponsored by Oceaneering and held at the Sandman Signature Hotel last night. In the week of International Women in Engineering day, almost 100 women and men from across Aberdeen’s oil and gas sector gathered to share research findings, hear personal journeys and develop their networking skills.

AXIS chair Karen Blanc launched the event, arguing that better balance is simply better business. With the war for talent raging once more, she laid out the case for why a diverse workforce is critical to the future success of the energy sector. She went on to highlight actions proven to be effective in creating modern inclusive workplaces where diverse talent thrives, before closing with a call to action.

Oceaneering’s ‘Kola Akintayo then shared her personal journey from student to HR Manager, interspersed with nuggets of wisdom on the importance ambition, determination, making professional connections and mentoring. She encouraged all present to double down on their networking efforts by adopting her “1:1” rule of making one new connection each month in spite of institutional, practical and cultural barriers to women networking. ‘Kola also proudly described the steps Oceaneering have adopted to attract, recruit, develop and retain diverse talent, in parallel with transforming processes and structures to make them inclusive. For example sponsoring STEM in schools outreach programmes, holding professional development events, running unconscious bias training for managers and revising Oceaneering’s compensation scheme.

Paul de Leeuw set out to surprise as he presented insights from the UKCS Workforce Dynamics Skills Landscape 2019-2025 survey. Thanks to analysis by SuMin Kim, those present were the first to ever see the data disaggregated by gender. Paul began by describing the significant changes originating out-with oil and gas i) energy transition ii) technology and iii) new ways of working – beyond the “norm” of a full-time 40 hour week at the worksite. He went on to show how these will change both what we do and how we learn. Overwhelmingly survey participants expected to spend less time on administrative tasks 6 years from now, and do less of their learning through experience and more through gamified technology. Men and women were broadly aligned on how critical they felt particular skills are in 2019/will be in 2025 with the notable exception of risk handling, mastery of social media and proficiency with virtual working. Paul/SuMin’s analysis predicts a modest drop in the total number of jobs in our sector (circa 10,000 of 165,000) but a radical shift in the Job Families in which people are employed. Paulnoted that most women in our sector work in support, finance or communications roles: the very roles most likely to reduce in number 2019-2025 due to external changes. This clearly presents a real challenge for achieving gender balance in our sector.

A lively and engaging panel discussion followed the presentations, deftly facilitated by Campbell Urquhart of White Cube Consulting, with Sarah Clark joining the presenters to take questions submitted in advance via and live on the night.

Q1 What's the number 1 change O&G firms need to make to allow diverse talent to thrive?

A Paul: “Be a cool place to work – hiring managers at [for example] Chrysaor are competing with the Googles of this world, not just the Exxons”

A Karen: “Develop a gender bilingual rather than a gender neutral attitude. Change the ecosystem to be inclusive to all"

Q2 How would you respond to a hiring manager who asserts “I don’t need to change, I hire on merit!”

A Sarah: “Chances are you’re wrong – no -one hires on merit because we are all biased. We need processes to help us control for those biases.”

A ‘Kola “That sort of attitude stems from a non-inclusive culture – I’d want to talk to their leadership team – that’s where cultural change needs to start.”

Q3 What about conscious bias?

A ‘Kola: “There is another name for that – discrimination, and that’s illegal.”

A Sarah: “If people are making staff decisions that contradict core values, there must be consequences.”

Q4 What about the women who have made it to the top and say “I didn’t need any help – so there can’t be a need for me to help other women”

A ‘Kola: “ You don’t know what you don’t know. That leader needs to look at the data – that will tell the story more powerfully than anecdotes”

A Karen: “All leaders can make change happen – don’t put the whole mentoring burden on the few senior women”

Q5 How important is it to have women on senior leadership teams?

A Karen: “ There are piles of studies showing a strong correlation between better gender balance at the top and business performance, staff engagement and even safety performance”

Q6 I’ve read a lot of gender pay gap reports that say the gap is all down to the high number of well paid men offshore. Isn’t the problem all down to offshore working?

A Paul: “ Actually only about 10% of our workforce are offshore-based, and that percentage is falling”

Q7 What would you say to women returners who remember the bad old days before D&I in O&G was a thing?

A Paul: “ We need to be more active promoting what the ecosystem of work in O&G really looks like. Who says work needs to look like 40 hours per week 48 weeks per year?”

Q8: Is there a need for female-focussed development programmes?

A 'Kola: “Yes! To build networks, talk openly about the challenges unique to the female experience."

A Karen: "To be used with caution: We need to stop "fixing women", and instead address the systems which are currently failing them."

The event then shifted up another gear, with Campbell providing a masterclass on networking dos and don’ts before leading us through “meet 5+” and “ strip the willow” networking opportunities. The energy was incredible!

We'll be following up with attendees to collect feedback for the event, and look forward to welcoming everyone back for our next planned event in September. Have a great weekend all!




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