Women in Energy
In 2021, we launched the “Women in Energy” series to promote women’s careers and expertise across the energy sector.
Women are on the frontline of the energy transition. As the oil and gas sector moves towards a sustainable future, IOGP wants to showcase the women who are fundamental to shaping the future of energy.
Fuzzy Bitar, Senior Vice President Health, Safety, Environment & Carbon at bp and IOGP Chair
Interview with Fuzzy Bitar – Men are allies
Gender equality is not about women only. Prejudices and biases that stem from inequalities affect everyone and encourage artificial conceptions of roles to which many feel obligated to conform.
We discussed this with Fuzzy Bitar, Senior Vice President Health, Safety, Environment & Carbon at bp and IOGP Chair. Fuzzy is a husband and father of two.
Fuzzy made it clear that men must be part of efforts towards gender equality, and it is of paramount importance that everyone understands why society and business need a more inclusive and balanced workforce. The energy sector, in particular, could benefit from a wider pool of talent to drive the energy transition.
Interviewer: What does gender equality mean to you?
Fuzzy Bitar: Gender equality is a key component of a healthy and therefore successful workforce and society. It’s about removing the unconscious biases and implicit associations that form an unintended and often invisible barrier to equal opportunity. I’ve experienced first-hand that having gender balance and inclusive teams improves decision making and leads to better outcomes. Regardless of industry or location, gender equality is fundamentally a human right for all.
I: What impact could gender equality have on the ongoing energy transition?
FB: Delivering the energy transition will require nothing short of reimagining energy as we know it. Numerous studies have shown that gender equality increases innovation, the same goes for all forms of diversity. The energy workforce is among the worst in the representation of women, with women accounting for only 22% of the oil and gas workforce and 32% of the renewable energy workforce. We want, and need, more women in engineering, technical and digital roles and in leadership positions, driving forward the transition, thinking long term versus short term, and putting value ahead of expediency. This balanced presence strengthens diversity of thought, bringing a wider range of skills and expertise, finding solutions to the challenges we need to resolve as a business and society. There are brilliant people all over the world and from all walks of life. When we bring great people together, they can create changes we don’t foresee. Ultimately, diversity spurs innovation and inclusivity fuels positive change.
I: Is gender equality relevant to women only?
FB: Not at all. As the name suggests, this is an issue for all, however they identify themselves. Whilst right now we are focused on encouraging more women into our industry, we want a balanced workforce that is treated equally and with respect. We want to rid the industry of antiquated gender stereotypes and let the skills and ambitions of each individual speak for themselves.
I: How can men be an active part of the change?
FB: Men must be part of the change. Why? Because they make up 88% of the workforce and an even higher percentage of the leadership positions. Each of us can start by understanding and being aware of the biases we inherently have. But this isn’t enough. We have to take action to fight inequality and prejudices to contribute to a more diverse and inclusive environment, and we do this by becoming allies. We need men to promote and engage in active efforts to improve gender equality and have an appreciation of the challenges faced by women. Leadership plays a key role, setting the example and driving the right culture. We can do this in a number of ways, for example: standardizing interviews and skill- based assessment to remove unfair bias; developing fair childcare policies; and ensuring that at all levels, from graduates to senior leaders, we recruit a good balance of genders.
I: Any advice for young women and men interested in joining the energy sector?
FB: The energy sector is an amazing place to work, delivering energy to meet the needs of people all around the world. There has never been such an exciting nor challenging time to join. You will have the opportunity to work globally, experience different cultures and work on the most advanced technologies. It will require addressing complex challenges and helping to solve big issues, all with the goal of helping to advance human progress. So, please don’t think of this as a male industry, but a STEM industry that is available to anyone who has a talent and skill. Your passion, enthusiasm and ambition are needed to drive the energy transition. Remember, it’s everyone responsibility to create a workplace where all people feel valued and equal, where they can come to work and be their best and do their best work.
Maria Spyraki, MEP
Meet Maria Spyraki, Member of the European Parliament since June 2014, now serving her second mandate as a member of ITRE and ENVI committees and as co-chair of the Intergroup on Sustainable Development, Biodiversity and Climate Change.
We discuss actions to tackle methane emissions and the related upcoming EU strategy.
Interviewer: Is the oil and gas sector the major contributor for methane emissions in the EU?
Maria Spyraki: There are many sources of methane emissions around the globe, both natural and manmade. In the EU, the energy sector is the third largest contributor of methane emissions (19%) after agriculture (53%) and waste (26%). Natural gas accounts for around 0.6% of total EU GHG emissions.
I: How is the upstream oil and gas industry tackling methane emissions?
MS: The upstream oil and gas industry is contributing to the reduction of methane emissions along the value chain and across all sectors of the economy. This industry has already undertaken a number of steps to minimize GHG emissions, through various initiatives including methane quantification studies, the Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) standard, the Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programs, and upstream Best Available Techniques.
I: What key aspects need to be considered when developing an effective Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) regulation?
MS: There is a need for flexibility in technologies and methodologies in the context of LDAR, but we need to ensure that we will have an effective LDAR at the end of the day. The companies in the oil and gas sector typically have LDAR programs in place and take leak detection and repair actions on a regular basis for safety reasons as well as part of their methane emissions mitigation efforts. This includes the comprehensive scanning of individual equipment and components to locate leaks and repair them.
I: What should the upcoming EU strategy on methane emissions provide?
MS: The upcoming legislation at the EU level, on methane emissions reduction in the energy sector, should provide an independent and significantly rigorous Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification system (MRV) which will be central to address methane emissions. It is necessary to provide credible data, identify issues and efficient measures, and assess the progress achieved. A mandatory MRV system would also improve Member States’ reporting to the United Nations’ framework convention on climate change. A strong Leak Detection and Repair programme is also a critical element on the EU strategy to reduce methane emissions and achieve the EU climate and environmental goals.
I: How can methane emissions data credibility be improved?
MS: Reconciliation between company reported emissions and independent measurement of methane emissions is quite critical for improved data credibility. The International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) could play a role in reconciling and verifying company reported data using top down/site-level measurements and scientific studies, as well as to develop and execute a consistent standardised approach to detection, measurement, reporting and verification of methane emissions applicable to the gas value chain including production, distribution and use. Increased transparency about major international methane emission sources may effectively support significant methane emission mitigation actions globally.
I: Any message for young women interested in the energy sector?
MS: The energy sector remains one of the least gender diverse sectors, and closing this gender gap would be vital as women are key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. A clean energy transition will require innovative solutions and business models to be adapted, and greater participation from a diverse talent pool. Women are listed less than 11% of patent applications related to the energy sector. Female inventors are rising across different technological sectors, with the highest success reported in the health and chemistry sector. In the patent classes closely associated with the energy sector, women are listed in less than 11% of the applications, and over 15% for climate change mitigation technologies, which is comparable to all technologies, including information and communication technologies. It’s low. Personally, I would like to invite young women to express their interest and get involved in energy affairs, as this sector is of paramount importance. It’s key for the future of our planet. We can do it for the people. We can do it for our families. We can do it for the environment. And we can do it our way.
We e-meet with Iman Hill, recently appointed Executive Director of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP). Iman describes how her career in engineering started and shares insightful advice for young women.
Interviewer: You spent most of your career as a petroleum engineer. How did you get started in the industry?
Iman Hill: I studied biochemistry at the University of Aberdeen and I became interested in the high-technology content of the industry. So when I graduated, I applied to most of the big companies. At that time, many of the big companies were taking good numerate graduates and turning them into petroleum engineers through a combination of on-the-job training, through the different disciplines of petroleum engineering, and also classroom-based training over a five-year period. So, I became a petroleum engineer, and very much a practical one, because I learnt a lot of what I’ve learnt by doing it on the job.
I: What was your experience as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
IH: When I joined in the middle of the 80s and going offshore, it was a big challenge, because there weren’t many of us – there were less of us than there are today – and we had no role models. We had to prove ourselves many times over to be taken seriously and to be respected, and we definitely had to be very good and consistent in what we did. So was it easy? No, it wasn’t easy. Was it pleasant? Not all of the time. We had to stand up for ourselves and we had to be good at what we did.
I: Do you think that women starting in the industry today still face similar challenges?
IH: I would say that our world is more enlightened, that the generations of today expect and demand equality much more and speak up about it more, and that’s a very good thing. So while I don’t think all of the challenges have gone away, many of them are easier.
I: Where did your interest in engineering come from?
IH: As I started my first job and I started to learn more and more about engineering – the complexity of the problems you get to work on, solving them through sitting down and applying principles of physics and engineering – my love for the subject grew and grew.
I: What would you say to young women interested in studying engineering?
IH: If you are interested in engineering or the STEM subjects, go for it. There’s nothing to stop you, and with an engineering qualification you have so many avenues in the world open to you. If you’ve got the drive, if you have the energy, if you really focus on delivering what you say you’re going to deliver, you’ll be a success and I cannot think of anything more interesting.
I: Any advice for them?
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. One of the magical things about our industry is that we are always striving for inclusivity and for valuing differences. It’d be a mistake to try to act like a man because we’re not men – our femininity and the different ways women approach things like relationships and decision making are part of our strength.
I: Did you look up to any woman in particular?
IH: I am going to be boring but truthful and tell you that I looked up to my mum. My mum was a doctor and she worked in Saudi Arabia, she drove in the 70s because she had to get to her patients and she taught us (four girls and two boys) to not let anybody tell us that you can’t do something, it’s up to you. She really gave us the foundation and the drive and the example of just following your dream, being the best that you can be, and not allowing others to squash your dreams and your hopes.
I: Why is it important to hear about women succeeding in areas where they are usually less represented?
IH: When looking upwards in the organization that I was in, when I saw a woman in a senior position, that gave me the impetus and confidence that with hard work, consistent delivery, and being a good employee, you can get to the highest places possible in the organization, and I truly, truly believe that. I can’t say it enough that in the end it is actually down to us, it’s down to me, you, to the individual, to make sure that they don’t let themselves down and then that they demand from the organization that they’re in or thinking of going into that there is a true pathway for them to grow, to develop, and to reach as high as they would like to.
I: What are your hopes for the Women in Energy series?
IH: I am so excited about it because this is a real opportunity for dialogue, for sharing experiences, for learning from each other. You’ll hear some very, very good stories. You’ll also hear about the challenges that we have but I think that in every work in life there are challenges. I’ll come back to what I said previously, which is: it’s down to us to make it work for us, four our female colleagues as much as for each of us individually. And I think that there’s value in these stories for our male colleagues as well, because I hope that men are listening.
I: Why should young women and men be interested in the Women in Energy series?
IH: They should be interested to learn about the things that we experience. Imagine having the opportunity to travel the world for work, to experience all of the diverse cultures and settings that you can possibly imagine, to work with some of the brightest brains in the world, with the biggest engineering challenges and massive technology implementation opportunities – where else can you get that? So I suggest that they may be interested in these real perspectives. And I think if I just narrow this down to women for now, it also will shine a light on some of the challenges the industry and women in the industry face – and I hope that hearing and learning from these stories can help prepare you for those challenges if you choose to enter this industry.
Meet Guloren Turan, General Manager of Advocacy and Communication at the Global CCS Institute, an international think thank whose mission is to accelerate the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage technology.
Guloren tells us about her experience in the energy sector, and explains how diverse talent pools add value to the development of innovative technologies on our pathway towards climate neutrality.
Interview: What is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?
GT: Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS, is a set of technologies that capture carbon dioxide, either from large stationary emission sources, such as power plants and industrial facilities, or from the atmosphere, and safely store them underground. CCS helps with mitigation of emissions from the existing emission sources as well as removing historic CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s this versatility – it is helpful with both mitigation and removals – that makes CCS such an important part of our climate tool kit.
I: What role do you see CCS playing in the energy transition?
GT: We need CCS to meet our climate targets and get to climate neutrality by 2050. Indeed, this is one of the conclusions of the ground-breaking IPCC 1.5 report which was released a few years ago. The report showed conclusively that it will be extremely challenging, if not impossible, to get to net zero without Carbon Capture and Storage.
I: How are women contributing to this technology?
GT: We have recently launched a “Women in CCUS” network, which you can find on LinkedIn. The skills and knowledge among our female colleagues in this network is immensely diverse and very impressive: we have engineers, geologists, lawyers, it’s the whole spectrum. Women are contributing to CCUS technology across all the elements of the value chain.
I: Why is a diverse talent pool relevant when dealing with innovation?
GT: I think diversity – and when I say diversity I mean in all its forms, not just gender diversity but background, age, and ethnicity – is crucial to encouraging different perspectives which lie at the heart of innovation. Employees with diverse backgrounds bring forward their own perspectives and experiences which lead to innovation, and it helps to create organizations that are more resilient and more effective.
I: What is exciting and fulfilling about working on carbon management technologies such as CCS?
GT: The feeling that we are doing our part in getting to climate neutrality, together with being part of an exciting growing sector, makes it very fulfilling to work in CCS.
I: Do you have any advice for young women interested in working in the energy sector?
GT: I would say just be yourself. I realize that my younger colleagues may be hearing this advice more often now, but in my earlier days, I was sent to training courses on how to increase presence. I clearly remember one occasion where in making a presentation or in a meeting, it was suggested to me that I should try to appear larger and occupy more physical space. I think presence comes from within, not from how you look or how much space you occupy.
I: Did you have any role model at the start of your career?
GT: I did not have a role model, but throughout my career I have had the privilege of working with and alongside tremendous women and leaders who have been truly inspirational. I think that it is important to have role models to aspire too, but I also encourage young women to find their inner voice and their own path.
I: What advice or insight do you wish you had received at the beginning of your career?
When I look back, I think it is important to realize that careers are not necessarily always linear. Sometimes one may need to take a step sideways, or what appears to be sideways, or a step down, and then you maybe take two steps forward. I really encourage my younger colleagues to listen to their hearts as much as they listen to their minds.
Interview text will be published shortly