Attracting female talent within SE Asia's oil and gas industry
The situation is no different in Southeast Asia than it is in other global regions. The industry still has a reputation of one that is dominated by men, and there is a way to go before this image is shaken off.
However, as seems to be the case worldwide, concerted efforts are being made to attract and retain more female oil and gas professionals, and career prospects for women in the industry have certainly improved.
So what is being done in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia to boost female representation in the oil and gas sector? And what else could be done in the future to make further progress?
The BP survey, which was published in December 2013, showed that in Asia, only 13 per cent of oil and gas professionals believe that employment of women in the industry has fallen in recent years, while 60 per cent believe it has increased.
This latter percentage is higher than Africa, the Middle East and Europe, where 57 per cent, 56 per cent and 52 per cent of professionals respectively have seen a rise in female representation.
When asked whether they thought career prospects for women in the oil and gas industry had improved, some 71 per cent of respondents in Asia said yes they had. Again this was higher than the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
With regards to salaries, the survey revealed that 33 per cent of oil and gas professionals in Asia think men are paid more than their female counterparts, so this is obviously an issue to be addressed.
However, 51 per cent think men and women are paid equally, which is higher than all other global regions apart from South America, where 52 per cent of oil and gas professionals believe there is equal pay.
Yet despite this apparent progress, almost three quarters of respondents globally agreed that oil and gas was male dominated, and just over half said they thought it was important for the industry to make sure it is an attractive employment sector for women.
So what is being done in Malaysia, one of Michael Bailey Associates' main oil and gas operating regions? Are employers in this country working hard to shake off the image of oil and gas as an androcentric industry? And how exactly are they doing this?
Initiatives to boost female representation
Globally, oil and gas companies are taking a number of steps to attract women to their industry and help them progress in their careers, so that there is better female representation right across the board, from entry level to senior management.
These steps include setting targets for female recruitment, providing training and mentoring, launching gender awareness training programmes and offering flexible working arrangements, which can be particularly beneficial for women with children.
General Electric, for example, has set up the GE Women's Network to accelerate the advancement of women working for the company. It is a worldwide organisation of more than 150 hubs in 43 countries, including Malaysia.
Here, it conducts workshops and offers training, mentoring and networking activities to help women reach leadership level in their organisation. It also works closely with schools and universities to foster interest in oil and gas careers among female students.
Then there is the Shell Women's Aspiration Network, or SWAN, which is a platform set up by Shell Malaysia to support the company's gender diversity objectives and provide an avenue through which female employees can express their thoughts and ideas on various issues.
Like the GE initiative, it allows women to network, share strategies, access mentoring opportunities and gain visibility within the organisation, giving them the support they need to advance their careers further within Shell and the wider Malaysian oil and gas industry.
Shell has also adopted numerous policies and working practices that it believes will help and encourage female employees, such as flexible hours, home working, career breaks and childcare support.
It even offers facilities such as rooms for breastfeeding mothers to help overcome some of the practical difficulties women may face in balancing their oil and gas careers with their family commitments.
But how can the industry go further? Well, GE has already identified the need to capture the interest of women at an early stage, preferably while they are still at school or university.
Better take-up of science and engineering subjects by female students will be key in ensuring that more women enter the oil and gas industry in the future.
The Malaysian oil and gas industry is, like many others worldwide, facing something of a skills shortage, and the need for talented professionals is likely to increase as demand for energy across Southeast Asia grows.
To access the most experienced people, or those with the greatest potential, employers will need to widen the talent pool significantly. That doesn't just mean geographically, it means widening it culturally and socially, and gender diversity is essential.
Indeed, achieving a good balance of male and female employees at all levels of the organisation can be of huge benefit to oil and gas companies, as both genders bring different ideas and ways of working to the table and can learn from one another.
Speaking to Ideas Lab, Julie Dewane, vice president of global supply chain at GE Oil and Gas, explained: "It's not just the volume of human capital required, but the different approaches and perspectives which will help ensure the industry's future."