As a young female student in year 10 in high school, I had no idea what to pursue as a career after graduating. However, one day in our science class we heard a guest speaker talk about the oil and gas industry. I was immediately fascinated by the story and decided that this was the place to be. Two years later, I found myself at the University of Western Australia (UWA) studying engineering and pursuing a career in the oil and gas industry. I had found my path.
Everyone knows that engineering is a male-dominated profession; however, I was still amazed to find that even these days few females choose to study it. According to Gillian Lynch from the school of oil and gas engineering at UWA, a mere 20% of students within the faculty of oil and gas are female, and yet this is the highest percentage of women’s participation in engineering degrees offered at UWA! So what are the university and industry doing to change this appalling statistic?
One initiative is the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) project, which aims to increase the participation of females in the domain of engineering, science, and mathematics. The WISE group organizes secondary-school activities at which female engineering and science graduates speak to the students. The talks introduce the world of oil and gas engineering to them, and many students start considering opportunities in this field. An example of an industry effort is Alcoa’s World Alumina Australia Prize for Women Engineers. This mining company offers a prize of AUS 1,000 to successful female students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
The school of oil and gas engineering at UWA promotes itself as being particularly open to women who desire a career in the industry. On the school’s website, a section features “Wise words from wise women,” where the school’s female graduates—now young professionals working for companies such as Advanced Well Technologies, Intec Engineering, and Woodside—describe their professional experiences and provide their personal thoughts. It is interesting to note their comments on the advantages and disadvantages of being a female oil and gas engineer.
It is important to promote oil and gas engineering degrees among the female high school graduates to increase the human resources pool in an industry where the skills shortage is very acute and will grow into a bigger problem in coming years. For my part, an engaging lecture by an industry professional in my high school years helped in two ways. It helped me discover an interesting, exciting, and challenging career path, and it increased the number of oil and gas engineers by yet another one.
Holly Duder is a student in the Petroleum Engineering and Commerce program at the University of Western Australia.