Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fueling the Future highlights Women in Oil and Gas

Conference spokesperson Caron Hawco. 
Newfoundland and Labrador boasts an impressive ‘A list’ of industrial developments, including Hebron, Long Harbour, IOC expansion, offshore oil field extensions, Muskrat Falls, and more. All will create significant demand for skilled, experienced workers, in both the construction and operations phases.

Meanwhile, a grey wave of baby boomers is retiring from senior executive, engineering, technical and other roles in the oil and gas industry, creating further demand for skilled workers.

There’s no question: the industry is facing a serious labour crunch.

But think about this. Women comprise 52 percent of the population, yet are grossly under-represented in the oil and gas industry. In fact, just two percent of the province’s women are employed in high-paying, non-traditional work roles.

If this imbalance was corrected, there would be no labour shortage. And men and women would stand as equals in all industries and occupations, from construction trades to advanced engineering.

Why are women so under-represented in the oil and gas industry? And what can be done to change this situation?

These are the questions at the heart of “Fueling the Future: Women in Oil and Gas”, an international conference scheduled for March 8 and 9, 2011 in St. John’s. And those questions will be discussed in this blog, as we interview presenters and explore conference themes in some detail. Keep coming back, please – the blog will be updated at least three times per week, from now until the conference concludes.

Fueling the Future will feature more than 40 presenters, from industry, government, post-secondary institutions, non-governmental organizations and academia. The conference will highlight employment trends and best practices, explore challenges facing women in the oil and gas industry, and suggest changes that will improve the participation of women in oil and gas.

Keynote speakers will include the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador; Hege Marie Norheim, Senior Vice President, Statoil, Norway; Dr. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Centre for Work-Life Policy in New York City; and a senior executive, as yet unconfirmed, with ExxonMobil.

There are a number of factors driving interest in this issue, said conference spokesperson, Caron Hawco, Senior Advisor, Communications and Stakeholder Management, Statoil Canada Ltd.

“Oil and gas operators and suppliers feel an obligation to strive for gender diversity in all areas of their business,” Hawco said.  “It’s a social imperative. But beyond that, there are important business drivers, too. There is a shortage of qualified workers in our industry, particularly in engineering, scientific and technical disciplines. Women comprise more than half our population, yet they are seriously under-represented in our industry. This conference is looking for ways to correct that imbalance.”

There is a regulatory driver as well, Hawco added. “The province is now making gender diversity plans a requirement in all future oil and gas developments, so operators and contractors now have an expectation to achieve certain employment targets in the hiring of women.”

The conference will be of interest to executives and managers in the oil and gas industry; government regulators and policy personnel; employees’ representatives; post-secondary institutions offering training in industry-related disciplines; organizations dealing with gender equity, employment readiness, regional development and related issues; leaders of business and industry associations; and academics studying labour market issues, the petroleum industry, women’s studies and other disciplines.

The conference is being presented by Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, in cooperation with oil and gas industry operators.

“In particular, we are pleased with the degree of commitment we have seen from the oil and gas industry,” said Michael Clair, Associate Director (Public Policy) with the Harris Centre. “Industry operators have come on board as sponsors, and are engaging their people at the senior executive level, as keynote speakers, presenters and participants. Clearly, the industry is taking this issue seriously, and we’re excited about that.”

For more information or to register, please visit the official conference web site.

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