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The Peninsula (Qatar): Hiring more women could ease oil firms’ staff shortage

Web posted at: 2/21/2008 9:57:45
Source ::: REUTERS

LONDON • Recruiting and retaining more women by setting quotas could help big international oil and gas firms cope with a severe shortage of skilled staff in future, a senior executive at Royal Dutch Shell said.

“A wasted potential resource in the industry is women,” said Lynda Armstrong, vice president technical solutions at Shell International Exploration and Production.

Armstrong, speaking at a seminar during International Petroleum Week in London, said women were typically under-represented in the technical side of the oil business and one way to address this was to introduce official quotas.

“I’m in favour of official quotas, which make you look at who else could get a particular job,” she said. “It is stupid in my view to ignore half the workforce.”

The skills shortage in oil and gas has already been widely flagged.

Downsizing and lack of recruitment into the energy sector during the 1980s, with large sections of the industry’s workforce now rapidly approaching retirement, have contributed to the looming staff shortage.

The oil and gas sector also has to change its image, as an environmentally-unfriendly industry that has limited long-term prospects, to attract new talent.

A new survey has found that 70 percent of energy companies believe they will not have enough leadership talent to meet the industry’s future needs.

The survey by the Energy Institute, Deloitte and executive search firm Norman Broadbent, to be published shortly, found that the average age of those who took part was 45, while 50 percent of respondents expected to leave the industry in the next decade, mostly through retirement.

“Our research shows companies are already facing shortfalls in terms of experience and leadership skills,” said Sarah Beacock, of the Energy Institute.

Graduate high-fliers now have lots of options to choose from, while growing numbers of highly-skilled staff, becoming available from emerging markets such as China and India, are also now in demand from indigenous companies.

“Local resources are being utilised locally, we can’t just wade in and take them away,” said Jon Glesinger, chief executive of consultancy Expert Alumni.

Women could provide part of the answer, but the oil and gas industry has a poor track record of retaining and promoting them.

“The industry has its roots in a macho, male-driven world,” said Armstrong, who said this culture partly explained why many women employees dropped out three to four years into their careers.

“But now it’s not about brawn, it’s about brains,” she said, adding that the industry needed to accelerate the pace of change and move more women through to leadership.

She said women now make up around half of the workforce in Britain’s FTSE 100 index of blue chip companies.

But only 12 percent of the senior jobs in those firms are held by women and within that, the oil and gas industry was one of the worst performers, she said.

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