Women in energy: Perspectives on gender balance

Abby Foster Abby Foster

By 2035, the natural gas and oil industries are projected to add 1.9 million jobs, according to a March 2016 study from the American Petroleum Institute (API). Of those, women are projected to account for 290,000 positions — just 16 percent of the total.

The API study shows that, while the natural gas and oil sectors are growing, the amount of women in these industries has not kept pace with growth. The topic of gender disparity isn’t isolated to the natural gas and oil industries. However, the energy industry and related STEM fields are making proactive strides in attracting more women to the industry, with organizations such as the Women’s Energy Network growing in size and scope yearly.

Women who work in the industry will tell you there’s still work to be done.

In recognition of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we talked with four women, and one man, in the natural gas industry to get their feelings on the gender disparity in the field and to find out what attracted them to the sector. Below are excerpts from those interviews.

Brittany Ramos
Coordinator of External Affairs, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.

Brittany RamosYears in industry: 6

What did you know about the industry before coming aboard?
“I knew nothing about energy. When I was in college, I didn’t think about energy. I just thought it came from a light switch.”

Does the industry suffer from gender disparity?

“I think we need to be honest about the disparity of women in energy. Oil and gas has a lower percentage of women than technology does. But I can tell you through my experiences that I have encountered female and male champions for gender parity. We’re making strides forward, but we still have a long way to go.”

How can the industry bring aboard more women?

“It’s important to talk about the wide variety of careers available to students so they really consider the options they have within the industry. We need to get people thinking about energy jobs as more than just engineers, but as accountants, supply chain experts, welders and countless others. Odds are, if they have an interest in something, there’s a corresponding career within the oil and gas supply chain. There’s so much more than the stereotypes about this industry, and we need to make sure young people are aware of the opportunities that exist.”

Sara Blascovich
Regional Regulatory Manager, HDR Inc.

Sara BlascovichYears in industry: 10

What do you enjoy most about working in the oil and gas sector?
“[The sector is] pretty fast-paced, especially when you compare it to other industries. In transportation, you can work on a project for years and years without feeling any sense of accomplishment. In oil and gas, you can see the fruits of your labor very quickly, which is very nice. I also like that a lot of people in oil and gas like to do the right thing when it comes to environmental, and I like working for an industry that has that kind of mindset.”

Does it irritate you that we’re still having a conversation about gender disparity?
“I think that, as a whole, there’s gender disparity across the board in all industries. It does irritate me we’re still having this conversation. The solution is pretty simple: Women do not want to be treated differently.”

Whom do you look to as a mentor or for advice?
“When I became chair of the Capital Chapter of the Society of Women Environmental Professionals, I reached out to [chapter founder and former chair, and Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development Senior Energy Adviser] Denise Brinley for her advice and input. She’s somebody who’s very conscious of uplifting other women and being a big supporter. I also talked to my grandmother about business and how she was able to succeed while having a family.”

Loren Anderson
Director, Technical Affairs, Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC)

Loren AndersonYears in industry: 10

How have you seen things change for women in the energy sector?
“Much like engineering over the past 15 years, more women are working in the industry and as leaders in their companies. In fact, the MSC has 15 standing committees and in 2018 over half of them are chaired or vice chaired by women.”

Are there misconceptions preventing women from joining the industry?
“In college and throughout my career, I have noticed the number of women in technical fields grow. I think this is because colleges and universities are encouraging women to get more involved in these technical fields that were historically dominated by men.”

How can the industry bring more women aboard?

“I think the industry could do a better job getting the word out to high schools, colleges and universities that there are excellent careers in energy. Organizations like the Women’s Energy Network have helped to create an atmosphere through networking events and sessions that is welcoming to women and promotes careers in the energy industry.”

Nicole Jacobs
Pennsylvania Director, Energy In Depth

Nicole JacobsYears in industry: 7

What would you like to see occur with women in the energy sector over the next several years?
“I would love to see more women joining this workforce and excelling in it. From the roustabouts on-site to pilots and engineers or those of us who are more geared to communication, I think women have a valuable place in this industry.”

What do you think needs to be done to bring more women into the energy sector?
“I think that the effort really needs to be focused on getting the next generation of girls excited about STEM education. Encourage them to look for cool rocks to study or to excel at math and science.”

What do you like best about working in the energy sector?
“My favorite part of working in this industry is being a part of something so much bigger than just what’s occurring in my own community. Marcellus Shale is driving U.S. natural gas development and part of a global fuel shift, and we get to be a part of that history being made.”

Alyson Joyce
Stakeholder Relations Representative, Seneca Resources Corp.

Alyson JoyceYears in industry: 3.5

How did you get your start in energy?
“I had friends who were working in energy, so they taught me a lot about the industry and encouraged me to join the fight. I was working in public relations and doing social marketing for clients, specifically in the consumer packaged goods space. The key communications skill sets apply whether you’re working on a brand of dog food or in oil and gas.”

What do you think about the gender disparity conversation?
“My friends will tell you I’m a serial optimist. I think it’s a positive that we’re continuing to A) have the conversation and B) see improvements. There are some frustrations … that we still have to have this conversation and that companies aren’t progressing as quickly as one would hope. But I think as time continues to change and evolve, corporate policies that encourage diversity and provide support for working women will become commonplace.”

What do you enjoy most about working in the energy industry?
“I love that we give back, and that we’re making a difference. We’re bringing good-paying jobs to places that previously had little to no economic development. I love that we are helping to fix roads, build parks and bring STEM programs into the community. That part of what we do is so fantastic. We’re providing jobs and low-cost natural gas. It powers us and keeps America safe.”

Abby Foster Abby Foster

Abby Foster is a director who focuses on energy and infrastructure clients, developing and implementing strategic communications plans that hinge on building relationships and advocacy networks for clients.

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