The topic of diversity in the tech industry has been in the news a lot lately. Tech leaders like Google, Microsoft and Facebook have taken heat for the underrepresentation of women in their workforces, with only 17%, 16% and 15% (respectively) of technical roles at those organizations being filled by women. While many people have been discussing diversity in the tech industry the past few years, little progress appears to have been made. In the oil and gas industry (in which Trellis Energy operates) the numbers are even worse – only 7 percent of the global oil and gas workforce is female.
As the Vice President of Product and Engineering at Trellis Energy, I’m proud to say that our organization is bucking the trend in these industries. Half of our Technical Engineering leadership team and a full 27% of our Engineering team are women. Ample evidence has shown that greater gender diversity in leadership roles is good for business. The Anita Borg Institute for women in computing found that Fortune 500 companies that have at least three women directors saw return on sales increase by at least 42%. A study by Credit Suisse found companies with more women on the board of directors had higher returns on equity, better stock performance and higher payouts of dividends.
The oil and gas industry, in particular, stands to benefit from hiring more women. That’s because the industry faces a unique challenge often referred to as the “Great Crew Change,” where 50% of the workforce is expected to retire in the next 5 to 7 years. At the same time, the oil and gas industry is becoming increasingly digitized and is facing a shortage of workers with the right technical skill sets. New technologies, software and sensors have been increasingly deployed throughout every step of the supply chain from upstream to downstream. These technologies are increasing automation and creating new efficiencies, but they are also generating a tremendous amount of data. As a result, engineers with backgrounds in information technology (IT), computer sciences and data analysis are going to be increasingly important in this industry. Oil and gas companies will be able to better navigate both the looming retirement boom and digital transformation by hiring more women to help fill these technical roles and address the worker shortage.
In order to address gender disparity and help meet the demand for more technical talent in all industries, it is critically important that we encourage more girls and young women to pursue their education and careers in STEM fields. Currently, the proportion of bachelor’s degrees in computer science being earned by women is dishearteningly low, having plummeted from 37 percent in 1984 to just 18 percent in 2014. Additionally, in order to keep female talent in STEM careers, companies must focus on providing quality mentorship programs and work/life flexibility. In my own personal experience, I can attest that receiving mentorship and moral support from my professional peers has been instrumental in my career and has encouraged me to pursue leadership roles that I might otherwise have not.
At Trellis Energy, we’re proud of our track record for hiring and promoting women within both technical and leadership roles. As a company, we’ve experienced first-hand how diversity in the workforce brings unique perspectives and new approaches to solving problems that contributes to greater business success. This diversity is a key component that has helped our talented technical engineering team develop innovative new software solutions that help energy asset owners improve their businesses and move into the digital age.