Pioneering Women: O&G Industry's Frontline Females
Rigzone 11/4/2011 URL: http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=112303
The oil and gas industry has long been stereotyped as a male profession. However, women have increasingly become key players.
Diane Austin, associate research anthropologist at the University of Arizona, addressed this topic in a paper titled, Women's Work and Livesin Offshore Oil. Austin noted the similarities between the oil and gas industry and the military. After World War II many of the war veterans went to work offshore. The tool pusher handpicked his all-male crew. Rarely did a crewmember leave. In fact, it was not uncommon for a crew to stay together for 10 or more years. Comparable to the front-lines of the military, no women were part of the oiland gas front-line, the offshore teams.
Mark Shrimpton, senior associate, Stantec, and initiator and organizer of the original "Women & Oil" international conference held in St. John's, Newfoundland in 1985, adds that "the petroleum industry developed out of the Southern US and then the Middle East. Operating and contracting companies have been noted for a culture that is unsupportive of womenin male-dominated occupations. In the case of offshore activity, this may have been reinforced by the strong involvement of personnel from the merchant marine and military, and by the high levels of occupational mobility of senior personnel, which have reinforced an independent male breadwinner and female homemaker model of gender roles." Nevertheless, the first women in the US oil and gasindustry started appearing after WWII. During the war, many women became skilled factory workers and enjoyed collecting a paycheck. When the men returned from war, they replaced women in the workforce. Across the oil and gas industry, even office jobs were filled by men. In the 1970s when oil and gas companies were forced by federal civil rights laws (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to hiremore women to work offshore, those women who ventured offshore likely did it for the great pay. "Of all the jobs associated with the offshore oil and gas industry, those typically defined as offshore – on the drilling rigs and production platforms – have been both the highest paying and the most difficult for women to get," Austin wrote. Many of the first women offshore were from offshore oil andgas families; thus they were familiar with the various jobs and rotating schedules of one to two or more weeks "on" and a week or more "off" on most jobs. On the platform, shifts are typically in 8 to 12 hour "tours".
The first offshore jobs for women were in the galley under male supervisors. Women typically prepared food, washed dishes and changed beds. When they wanted to advance theiroffshore careers, a few went into drilling, but a majority of those who wanted to advance went into production roustabout positions. Still, women are most prevalent in catering jobs. With women working offshore, changes needed to be made to the accommodations as well as to the culture. Bathrooms and living quarters were easily reworked, but the disruption to the way the men interacted with each otherwas a serious intrusion for some. Common derogatory teasing on the job as well as sex talk and pornography had to be curtailed.
Today's Offshore Woman
It is no secret the oil and gas industry is facing a labor shortage. Recruiting and retaining women in the industry is critical. Though the progress we've made as an industry is notable, we are running out of people, men or women, to workoffshore, Shrimpton noted. "The numbers out of universities continues to decline. Employers are looking for competent, efficient educated people. They don't care if employees are female or male. The industry can no longer afford to be picky," Shrimpton said.
Carolyn Emerson, project coordinator at the Canadian Center for Women in Science, Trades and Technology, works closely with women in the oil...
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