Men As Change Agents Series: Andy Samuel
Updated: Mar 3
Andy Samuel, Chief Executive, OGA, calls for men to work together to enable and empower women as part of the AXIS Network's Men As Change Agents series.
Oil and gas, and indeed the wider energy industry, has struggled for too long on inclusion and diversity. Looking at gender, for example, women have always been under-represented and only around 25% of the current workforce in the UK Continental Shelf is female. According to the skills body OPITO, even assuming that we broke all previous records and managed to recruit a 50/50 split of men and women from now on, the gender balance is still only projected to change slightly, to 30% female by 2025.
This is a great example of where I think as leaders, our message needs to be reset. We need to be looking forward, rather than back. We need to inspire action today, rather than simply concede to the gaps of the past. I would strongly urge organisations to talk as much about what they are doing for each new intake as they do for the overall numbers. In the case of the industry gender balance, rather than debating whether the level of female representation nudges up to 28, 29 or 30% by 2025, I would like us to make strong commitments that we will hire the brightest and best talent, and that we expect that this should be as near to 50/50 as we can possibly achieve.
Here in the OGA, we’re determined to keep creating and sustain a culture that celebrates and best uses the diversity of talents we have, including having a strong gender balance. When we were formed in 2015, 31% of our staff were female whilst today it is 44%. As a team of only around 170 people, we don’t compare directly to many industry companies but a good number of our staff have been recruited from industry, and they consistently tell us they enjoy our culture. Authentic and inclusive values, respectful and practical flexible working, parental leave and mentoring are some of the key areas we have put a lot of focus on.
Of course, there are many reasons the industry struggles to attract women; one of which is the perception that it’s male-dominated. This perception can become self-fulfilling. I was pleased at the recent Offshore Europe conference to see more emphasis placed on diverse panels, although there is still much more to do. The decommissioning session I put together and co-chaired felt so much more interesting and fun thanks to the great energy and diversity of my panelists.
I believe that embracing diversity of thought (in its broadest sense) is key to tackling industry’s inclusivity problem. It will surely also help us all navigate the ever-increasing pace of change and realise many new opportunities. We need to think, behave and work like it’s the 21st century and attract the brightest minds with the skills to create an exciting new future. This is intrinsically linked to maintaining industry’s social license to operate.
I have enjoyed being a strong supporter of the Future Industry Leaders Programme (FILP) ever since it was first established back in 2016. The progamme and network provides development, mentoring and collaborative opportunities for rising industry leaders. This tech-savvy generation rightly expects inclusion, diversity and new agile ways of working.
I’ve been highly impressed with these leaders and recently handed over the responsibility for judging our annual Maximising Economic Recovery Award to a group of five ‘FILPers’. A small gesture perhaps, but this passing of the mantle is one that I see as being beneficial all round.
I see these future leaders as being particularly well-placed to take forward Roadmap 2035, the future blueprint for industry, including the contribution to achieving Net Zero. It’s time for this passionate, diverse generation to step up and lead the change, and it’s also time for men in grey (or like me blue) suits to ensure we play our part in working together, enabling and empowering them.
Andy Samuel, Chief Executive of the Oil and Gas Authority
For more information on Men as Change Agents, The AXIS Network recommend the Women’s Business Council’s report.