Working in a Male-Dominated Industry

Everyone knows the oil and gas industry is a male-dominated industry. Not only is it male-dominated, but many parts within it still have the good-ole-boy’s club feel (trust me, I would know and if you know me personally, you know I know).  While the industry as a whole has definitely improved since I started working in 2005, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I work as an investor relations manager for an E&P company.  If you think the industry as a whole is male-dominated, it’s even more so in the oil & gas finance/investing side. In early March, I was at an energy dinner held in conjunction with one of the top institutional investor conferences in the nation. They are consistently ranked as one of the best conferences by Institutional Investor magazine. The dinner was organized by the conference hosting bank with at least 120+ diners in attendance. As I walked in and looked around, I was saddened to see less than 10 women. I had already expected it to be the case before arriving, but it will still disappointing nonetheless. It reminded me of another big energy event I attended last year that probably had over 200 guests.  I counted 5 women.  Two of them sat at my table and both were reporters.

Why is that? What is it about investors and wall street, particularly with oil and gas, that makes women shy away from it?

A colleague of mine (who just happens to be male) gave me his thoughts while we were at the conference energy dinner.  He said females don’t seem to find this industry sexy.  “Who wants to talk to a bunch of old men about getting oil out of the ground?” I don’t know.  Plenty of women seem to enjoy it.  An article I read a few years ago mentioned the increase they were seeing in females enrolled in the petroleum engineering program at Texas A&M. They were expecting the program enrollment to be 49% females within 2-3 years. That’s a lot of female engineers. I know plenty of intelligent female engineers on that side of the industry. Why was it so hard for me to find a peer on the finance side?

I think a big reason why there aren’t many females in finance/investor relations in oil and gas is because of the barriers to entry. Many IR teams operate with one or two team members. Due to the nature of the industry, most VP level IR practitioners are men simply because they have been doing it for a long time (I’m talking 15 to 20+ years).  As the great crew change continues, I think we’ll naturally see more and more females come into the role, but the transition will be slow.

I didn’t grow up wanting to work in the oil and gas industry. I sort of fell into it (that’s a funny story for another day). I also didn’t grow up thinking I’d do investor relations. In fact, my degree is in chemistry and math. (Full disclosure: I do have my MBA, but I embarked on that degree with other intentions.) I started out working in a chemical manufacturing facility and in the oilfield running chemical tests. Life tossed me onto my current career path so I’m making the most of it.

My husband often tells me how important my job is and if we needed, he would step down from his post and take care of the family. I don’t believe my job is that important, but I love how much he supports my career decisions. It’s important to me that we set a great example for CJ when it comes to two career parents. I want him to see the love and support we have for each other and recognize how important it is to view each other as equals. And since we don’t have a daughter, I also hope any future girlfriends (or boyfriends should he so chose, let’s be PC about this) sees that it is possible to have it all, so long as your expectations of having it all are within the realm of possibility.

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