THE gender divide at the top of UK businesses was blatantly highlighted by a report by the governance institute ICSA, which stated that within the top 100 FTSE companies there are more male CEOs named John than there are females leading businesses and organisations - how crazy is that?
Though the proportion of female boardroom roles doubled between 2010 and 2015 from 12.5% to 26%, most women are in non-executive and part-time director positions. This gulf in gender roles continues to cause unrest and conflict in 2017, particularly in relation to the recent furore caused by the gender debate, sexual discrimination cases, and pay disparity at Google, Uber and the BBC, respectively, to name a few.
I don’t think anyone would argue that having a more diverse workforce benefits everyone, as long as it is based on performance and not just balancing numbers. There is A LOT of information in the public domain that shows evidence of improved company performance, in terms of increased revenue, profit and market share and higher shareholder returns, within companies that have a more diverse senior management team. However, the arguments have always been around quotas. For example, research by the Canadian Institute for Gender and the Economy, outlined why the use of quotas may or may not work, how to avoid the pitfalls and suggested strategies to deliver progress without the need to satisfy numerical criteria.
When I did research for a Women in Engineering Forum presentation in May 2015, the oil and gas industry’s statistics were poor. In fact, the industry was only second to mining in under-representation of females across all levels and particularly in senior management roles. Two years ago, in the top 100 oil and gas companies, only 11% of senior management and Board of Director positions were filled by women.
At that time, 33% of Tendeka’s staff were female and 28% of our senior management team were women. I’m delighted to report that since that presentation in 2015, those numbers have increased significantly - 40% of our total workforce and 43% of our senior managers are women, each chosen for their roles due to their skills and industry experience. This is in a world where industry standards have not increased above the 11% threshold.
So, what is Tendeka doing right?
Overall, the oil and gas industry has worked hard to raise awareness of this issue and to promote what employers can do to create a conducive / flexible environment. It has also increased engagement amongst all staff to endorse what both women and men can do to ensure they are given equal opportunity to flourish.
Janeen Judah, 2017 president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, is a highly visible vocal advocate of overcoming the gender imbalance in the oil and gas industry. She is the fourth woman to take the presidential title and it has been 11 years since the last woman held the post. Her drive is to increase the number of women in the industry from 22% to 35% by 2020 across all levels of the sector with support from the World Petroleum Council and Boston Consulting Group who recently presented a comprehensive study on women in the oil and gas industry, Untapped Reserves: Promoting Gender Balance in Oil and Gas.
Global governments are finally recognising this issue are doing great things to address the challenges that gender diversity presents. In the UK, for example, many initiatives are in place to promote equality, such as The 30% Club, and close the gender pay gap. In Malaysia, the government offers tax incentives for employers who bring women back into the workforce and provides them with flexible working arrangements and childcare. In Japan, the government supports 58 weeks maternity leave and provides 400,000 pre-kindergarten spaces.
Governments are not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts, it is because they understand the value of utilising the whole talent pool. A recent Guardian article claimed that greater diversity could add a staggering £24bn to the British economy every year.
Companies are also offering great things like career comeback programs, flexi-time, part-time and work from home, childcare leave and providing support to new parents.
At Tendeka, we have great examples of our employees being given career breaks, support during the adoption process and flexible working conditions. Although we don’t have quotas in place for diversity, we have created a naturally conducive environment and so our numbers speak for themselves.
We have several women in senior positions, such as our CTO Annabel Green and our new VP for North and South America, Suzanne Stewart, who I hope can mentor others to recognise their strengths and capabilities and succeed in whatever position they choose.
Women have unique traits that add insight and diversity to any organisation, this resource needs to be harnessed and developed. Our next step as an organisation is to encourage employees to get involved in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Ambassador program. Volunteers can participate in careers events, classroom visits and anything involving inspiring young girls, and boys, to pursue STEM subjects at school and to make the oil and gas industry more attractive as a career option for these potential young engineers, innovators and industry leaders.
In conclusion, there are many great things done at Tendeka to provide flexible working conditions for all employees and this breeds a naturally diverse environment that we should all be very proud of.