In January 2014 a group of 15 relative strangers, many of whom were linked by a chance meeting at the Women in Industry lunch at Offshore Europe 2013, were invited by the Chair of Shell’s Women’s Network to their facilities at Woodbank, and asked the question; ‘Would you like to work together to create a network that spans across the industry?
The answer was a resounding YES…then there was a pause…the worry and the nerves set in as we realised - THIS WAS A BIG TASK! What did we mean by a network that spans across industry, who were we aiming at? How were we going to do this? What were we going to do and who was actually going to pull everything together? And then came the potentially touchy question…What about the men in the industry?
This wasn’t going to be straight forward, we actually had some differing views and differing reasons for coming together, and in order to get started we would need external help. That first meeting generated many ideas that needed to be taken forward. The group of 15 was narrowed down to 7 volunteers who stepped forward to work together to formulate a strategy and a way forward.
Without funding it was clear that a business case was needed. Everyone agreed that there were lots of benefits to AXIS, and this wasn’t just for the personal benefit to individuals, this was for the benefit of the industry. Similarly, agreement was reached that the overall purpose was really to get more gender balance in the industry – then someone had the great idea of pulling these two points into our motto ‘Better Balance, Better Business.’
We worked through our differences and pulled together the aspects we agreed on and from there we created our vision, our strategy, a committee and a charter, created a logo and a website – all in 9 short months, setting ourselves a launch date of 18th September 2014.
And just so that you understand, we were an eclectic mix of people – at the time I worked at Ernst Young (EY), I’m an accountant by trade, we had technical safety engineer, a presentation coach, a contracts & procurement manager, a materials and corrosion team lead so on top of working round our different ways of operating, none of us had any experience of setting up a network or knowing what half of the things we needed to do...
But it worked! We collaborated together and through committee member contacts we got sponsorship from Dana Petroleum, Core Oil & Gas, and secured prominent speakers; Art Soucy, President, Europe, Africa and Russia Caspian for Baker Hughes, and Oonagh Werngren, Operations Director for Oil and Gas UK. We were offered support from the Big Partnership and had press coverage in the Herald, P&J and on Original FM, and with EY’s help we were able to contact over 250 people to invite them to the launch. The relief and pride that we felt at the launch event was just fantastic! The energy in the room was contagious, we had over 90 people actively participating in the discussion and everyone agreed that there was a need for the network. Art said on the night, to restrict the talent pool in the industry to less than 50% of the population was crazy and this wasn’t just a ‘women’s issue’ but an industry issue.
In January 2015 the committee held its first AGM, where the bones of the network’s aim and strategy were fleshed out with clear actions and structure. Since then we’ve held seven events, made contact with key industry leaders and connected with over 500 individuals through our mailing list, LinkedIn and more recently Facebook. We still have a way to go, we still don’t have a clear handle on how many females there are actually in the industry, we’re continuing to strive for more engagement with the men in the industry, and we haven’t got the evidence yet to show that we’re making a difference at a senior level, however we are proud of what a relatively small number of individuals has achieved thus far. Our passion for making the difference and reaching our vision of a more balanced gender diversity continues to remain strong, and we hope to see you at some of our future events!
AXIS Network Chair