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International Women's Day 2020: Neil McCulloch

Neil McCulloch, Executive VP, Spirit Energy, calls for action to harness the industry's potential by highlighting the benefits of gender balanced teams.


The conversation in the industry has taken a necessary turn to sustainability. For many focus areas, like achieving gender balance, this can seem like a competing priority - or worse a distraction. A more useful view may be to recognise the increased focus on the energy transition as a catalyst for increasing the pace of change towards equal pay, equal leadership, and equal opportunities for women and men.


The oil and gas sector is in new territory and our traditional industry model no longer fits. Amid this fundamental change, the ability to innovate will be critical and we already know that increased participation by women improves the innovation performance of organisations. Real innovation – the kind that uncovers new paths to sustainability will only come from high-performing, gender-diverse teams that maximize the power of different opinions, perspectives and cultural references. The disruptive transformation driven by the energy transition has given our industry one of the most compelling arguments yet for an even greater focus on accelerating women’s progress in the workplace.


There is a unique opportunity being provided right now. The energy transition is a pressing, new challenge that requires innovative solutions and whilst there are leaders emerging, no one is an expert…yet. It is a natural leveller making the conditions for increasing the rate of change in our industry ripe to respond to effective actions that business leaders can, and should, take to improve how women progress within their companies into more senior, more influential, more fulfilling and better rewarded roles.


The closing of gender gaps is becoming a science, with increasing evidence on what works and what doesn’t. We need to incorporate the best learnings from around the world. Alphabet, Amazon and Apple are great examples of some of the most influential companies that have grown rapidly from responding to consumer trends and whose overall representation of women, particularly in senior roles, continues to increase. This gives me hope that with deliberate sponsorship and succession planning by existing leaders, we’ll see more women with the opportunity to step into the top roles - just like Alison Rose has done in replacing Ross McEwan as CEO at RBS and Marianne Lake has done in stepping up to CEO of JP Morgan Chase’s consumer lending business.


Our industry is driven by sustainability and that depends upon attracting, optimising and retaining the best talent. We are fortunate that the conditions for challenging the gender balance in our industry are right. It’s now up to those in the seat of organisational power to provide equitable opportunities to the right talent to further drive the innovation that will be essential to our industry’s ability to transform and be ready for the tipping points that will change our sector forever.


Harnessing the gender parity opportunities presented by the changes happening in our industry is a timely call to action and one that I would like to pose to all leaders in our sector.


Neil McCulloch, Executive VP, Technical & Operated Assets, Spirit Energy

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