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Limited access to good education and venture capital, gender and cultural bias, and social stereotype form key inhibitors to proportionate female representation in the petroleum industry. And until workplace gender imbalances are addressed, the current effort for the growth and development of the sector will remain an idle fancy.
These form key conclusions of the panelists who spoke on Tuesday, the second day of the on-going African Downstream Week organized by Oil Trading and Logistic (OTL) in Lagos.
The panel discussion sought to drive gender equality and diversification in the industry which currently dominated by male professionals; and the goal of the policy debate is to harness full human capital to promote the growth and development of oil and gas industry in Nigeria and Africa.
In dwelling on “Positioning Women for Opportunities in the Petroleum Downstream,” the panelists regretted that women make up just a minuscule 9.0 percent of the senior management positions in the African energy sector, with gender diversity and balance decreasing in senior executive positions. They noted that women make up less than 8.0 percent of technical jobs in the oil and gas sector, and just 9.0 percent of management positions in the utility sector.
Discussants also noted that access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education remains a major factor to active female participation in the industry. They called for social and cultural reform measures that would dismantle all primary inhibitors female career progress in the technically intensive industries.
The panelists agreed on the need unleash all human genius in the country in propelling social and economic growth, stressing that gender bias remains a bottleneck to realizing full national aspirations in the energy industry.
In making contributions to the debate, General Manager in charge of Commercial at TotalEnergies Marketing Nigeria Plc, Mrs Weruche Nwagbara, called for sincere efforts that involve nurturing the young girls with education, career choice and the ambition to achieve greatness in life.
She pointed at the example of her daughter who took early guidance to prepare for a career in the aviation industry and eventually became a pilot. “We have to start building and cultivating strong women early to participate in the sector”, she pointed out.
They demanded that girls and women who hold capabilities be given equal opportunities to compete for space and position in industries in all the sectors in the country, including energy, manufacturing, construction and others.
Executive Director in charge of Business Development and Strategy at Loyz Energy and Logistics Services Limited, Bassey Adie, insisted that deliberate policy should be put in place to address the prevailing workplace bias against women in the country.
Mrs Adie is a member of Women In Energy Network (WIEN) which sponsors advocacies for girl child STEM education and gender diversity in the management cadre of public and private institutions. WIEN generally supports capacity development, growth and development of women who have taken careers in technical areas of the industry.
With the existing level of gender imbalance in the industry, she argued that corporate institutions in the country must create systems that accelerate to the growth of women in order to achieve balance in management cadres.
“Some people are of the view that men and women have equal opportunities. Women should be given special treatment. But truth of the matter is that facts and data speak for themselves. It is still about 9.0 percent of women in senior executive position.
“In Africa, especially in Nigeria, only 18.0 percent of women are in executive position in oil and gas sector. So, you see data is showing the gap,” she said.
Another member of WIEN, Ejiro Gray, who is the Governance Sustainability professional and currently, Executive Director Governance and Sustainability at Sahara Group, shared the same perspective with other speakers, stressing that it was time policymakers in Africa began to institute measures that promote gender equality for the overall economic benefits of the continent.
Session was moderated by Sheila Abiemo, a director for policy coordination at National Petroleum Authority of Ghana. She also stressed the imperative for gender equality.