PESGB April 2018

Tue 13 March 2018

Category: Magazines

Highlights include:

  • COMMUNITY: PESGB win two awards at the European Excellence Awards
  • EVENTS: Meet the Asia Pacific E&P Conference Committee
  • EVENTS: Meet the PETEX Committees
  • NEWS FEATURE: African discoveries prior and post the 2014 oil crash
  • NEWS FEATURE: Brazil is key for stable production in South America

Plus much more inside

Time to Strike a Balance

Am I a male, pale and stale President?

With a couple of very notable exceptions, the PESGB President role has been occupied mostly by people characterised through various parameters as “least diverse”. There have only been two women presidents of the Society since 1990 (for the record, Rosemary Johnson Sabine in 1994 and Oonagh Werngren in 2014). Whilst we could rightfully claim that this is not our faults, the past president, president-elect and I clearly perpetuate this situation.

The gender balance of the PESGB membership is approximately 77% men and 23% women. Similarly, the PESGB Council is comprised of 66% men and 33% women. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist* to work out why. The oil and gas industry since its inception has been a predominantly male environment. During my geology undergraduate years in the late 1980s, the course was majorly populated by men. The balance across university education has radically shifted in recent years, with many more women entering industry. And yet it remains stubbornly difficult to break an overwhelming patriarchy.

Gender disparity has recently become more transparent in the UK with the legal requirement for larger organisations to report on pay. My own employer reported at the end of 2017 and made headlines as one of the first to do so. Whilst the principles of “equal work means equal pay” were clearly upheld (unlike other commercial sectors), there was a gender pay gap apparent, particularly in higher job grades. This was clearly due to the lack of women in senior roles and the legacy of bias in science/engineering-based careers. The historically male domain of offshore work has skewed the gender pay gap in particular.

I was talking to a work colleague the other day and asked her why she thought there were not more women in senior roles in the oil and gas industry. Two hours later, I returned to my desk to find an elaborately hand-drawn diagram, highlighting a multitude of factors across a hypothetical career timeline. The burden of traditional roles, international mobility, reputation, perception, behaviours, stress, competitiveness following parental leave, availability and affordability of child-care, intra-gender competition… a veritable minefield of challenges. Of these, bridging or breaking the traditional parenting gap and enabling career continuity is critical, although this has been impeded by the recent industry downturn, where continued employment is biased towards those who are flexible and mobile (typically men, in other words).

So – with media headlines and the positive messages emanating from International Women’s Day still ringing in our ears – there is still much to be done to ensure equality and the right person, with the right skills, gets the right job, and on the same pay. The PESGB will continue to play its own role in ensuring that we provide opportunity to all. As a start, I hope that all members feel empowered to stand for a 2019 Council role.

As part of the PESGB GEOLiteracy programme for 2018, we are very pleased to have Professor Joanna Morgan from Imperial College take on the unenviable task of presenting a mass extinction event. Her work with colleagues on the coring programme in the Chicxulub impact crater of Mexico has changed views on the way this +/- 66-million-year-old event effected Earth’s life systems. We look forward to engaging a new community of potential geoscientists with some stimulating lectures. There are sponsorship opportunities for individuals and companies, so we would welcome your participation in return for a certain level of immortality. See here for more details.

Finally – a hearty congratulations to our PESGB office team. Last month, Maria and her team were awarded two European Association Awards, with a silver medal for “Best National Association” and a bronze award for “Best Membership Initiative”, which recognised our 2017 GEOLiteracy outreach programme with Professor Ken Lacovara. This was an amazing achievement and testament to what a small team can achieve on behalf of you, our members.

Feedback welcome.

Neil Frewin

*By 2016, 50% of astronauts in the NASA training programme were women (New York Times)

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