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US perceptions of the oil and gas industry survey | 2017

Oil and gas conundrum: the gender gap impacting tomorrow’s employees

By Rachel Everaard


EY’s recent perceptions survey found young people today don’t see oil and gas as an attractive career option – certainly a challenge for companies seeking bright, creative employees.

When you look more closely at the data, however, it becomes clear that the industry’s negative appeal among younger generations (individuals aged 16 to 21 and 22 to 35 without a specific career path) is driven by a significant “interest gap.”

That is, while a majority of young men are interested in oil and gas careers, young women’s strong negative views drive net appeal below zero.

That negativity is compounded by two simple facts: Every single year since 1982, more US women have earned Bachelor’s degrees than men yet only about 20% of engineering graduates are women.

Taken together, these are daunting numbers for the industry, at a time when the pursuit of talent has never been more competitive.

It’s a cycle that will be difficult to break. Women, who today represent a major share of the non-engineering talent pool, don’t see the industry as a viable career choice, largely because it is male-dominated.

And the lack of women engineers and geoscientists – the backbone of any oil and gas company – makes it difficult for the industry to prove otherwise. In fact, women and minorities make up only 20% of the global STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce.

What can companies do? While no single company can completely change the image of the industry, individual efforts can have an impact and can even lead to a competitive advantage. Smart companies should:

  • Make a demonstrable commitment to identifying, recruiting and hiring women, and measure progress regularly – diversity requires effort, and companies must be proactive in seeking out talented women. But it also takes more than just making a commitment; as with any metric, companies must quantify their success or lack thereof, and take steps as needed to improve their performance.
  • Support mentoring programs and professional development – companies that invest in networking and mentorship programs aimed at women find that employees are happier and retention improves. While informal efforts can work, a more formal, structured approach creates a specific platform for mentorship and networking activities and provides much-needed support and assistance.
  • Promote qualified women to leadership positions, especially in technical fields – this sends a clear message that the company supports gender equality. The first step, of course, is ensuring that women in STEM fields have access to the same training, development and opportunities as men.
  • Improve visibility – use social media and other innovative forums to reach young people with stories of women making a difference in your company. Oil and gas companies must get better at reaching young audiences; a 30-second commercial on the network news might look great, but young people won’t see it. 

These are just a few suggestions for oil and gas companies who are serious about attracting – and retaining – the talent that can drive success in the years ahead.

To learn more about the impact of consumer perceptions on the oil and gas workforce, check out the talent portion of our survey along with