Women in the Industry

Women are playing an ever-growing role in the oil industry. Technicians, engineers, managers, and more: How do women feel about their roles and responsibilities? How do they plan their careers, and what challenges do they face? How do they envision the future? In this Forum, The Way Ahead explores what two young professionals, Rita Okoroafor and Noriko Kobayashi, have to say.—Herve Gross, Rita Onyige, and Anton Andreev, Editors, Forum


Rita Okoroafor

Noriko Kobayashi

Tell us about yourself: Your job title, company, origin, geographic location, age, years of experience, discipline of expertise, hobbies, and your passions.

I am the Reservoir Engineering Team Leader for Data Services, Schlumberger, Nigeria. I am from Nigeria and am located in Africa. I am 28 years old. I have 4 years’ working experience as a reservoir engineer. I studied petroleum engineering as an undergraduate and petroleum engineering and project development for an MS degree. I am married. I enjoy spending time with my family, writing, and researching.

I am a reservoir simulation consultant for Chevron. I was born in France to Japanese parents and have lived in France and Japan, before coming to the Bay Area. I have 3 years of experience with Chevron, the first two  as a reservoir engineer in Houston and now as a simulation engineer in San Ramon, CA. I like traveling and anything related to food and cooking.

Your personal experience: What does it mean to be a woman in the oil and gas industry? Please share with us any challenge/advantage you have or perceive that stems from being a woman in this industry.

I am encouraged being a woman in the oil and gas industry. I have observed a general acceptance of women’s capabilities in this industry. Seeing successful women has been motivating. Speaking for the organization that I work in, I have seen a respect for the female gender and equal treatment with the males. Women are also encouraged to grow within the organization.

It is not a significant advantage in my opinion to be a woman in the oil and gas industry, in the sense that you have to put in as many hours as men do and be as mobile as they are to have a career. It is particularly a challenge when you have to work your two jobs, both in the workplace and at home, but I guess this is not unique to the oil and gas industry.

Careers and qualities of women: What are women particularly recognized for in the workplace, and how does it affect their careers?

I have to confess, for this question I spoke to the males to be sure the women were not biased. They appreciate the gender diversity. Many of them agree that women are more organized. The presence of women helps to create a softer atmosphere, such as minimizing the use of vulgar language. They also bring in ideas from different points of view.

Women are perceived as being able to analyze situations in a meticulous, patient, and understanding way. Subsequently, they make good managers who are able to balance the goals of the company while managing the individual personnel.

In my opinion, women have similar qualities as men and seeing charismatic women leaders in the industry attests that women are equally recognized as men. Two qualities in women I would stress, though, would be efficiency and organization. You really have to be when you both have a job and a family. Although I would think that women now don’t have to prove themselves as they once had to, I think they keep working hard to make a difference in the workplace and stay competitive with their best male peers.

Work/life balance: What do you struggle with when trying to balance your work and your life?

I want to be the best in all that I do and be totally committed, but I have found out that the roles at work and in the family are demanding. Sometimes I find it challenging, balancing my work with my personal life, especially as a family woman. However, I have learned to manage my time and remain focused on my priorities, in order to manage the challenges.

I think women aspire to have exciting and challenging careers, as most men do. The struggle comes when the job that would help your career is located in a different city or country, away from the place your husband needs to be to fulfill his own career. It is hard for me to ask an equally, if not better-educated and more professionally successful, husband to put his career on hold and follow me to a remote place where finding a job for him would be a challenge.

Your perception of the industry: According to you, how does the oil and gas industry compare with other industries, when it comes to the presence of women?

The oil and gas industry is becoming more receptive to women, though they are lagging behind if I were to compare them with such industries as the banks and academia, or with job settings where administrative skills are most required. But then, the industry started out as an all-male industry. There would have been very few women thinking of being a drilling engineer in the early days of cable-tool percussion drilling.

The oil and gas industry remains a male-dominated industry in my opinion, although I am seeing more young women starting their career in this industry. These are women who are ready to work in the field and in remote locations, signs that the industry overall is managing to attract and keep women in the workplace.

How do you envision your future in the industry?

The future seems very bright and promising. There are a lot of career opportunities ahead and areas to diversify in. I see myself having a very interesting career in this industry.

It is an exciting time to start working in the oil and gas industry. With crude prices at an all-time high, opportunities to work for challenging and exciting projects are plentiful. At the same time, rising concerns about the environment and the world we are leaving to our children remind us that we need to operate and live in a  sustainable fashion—not only to have a  job until retirement but also to remain proud of the challenges we are meeting and problems we are solving today.



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