The Energy Sector in South Africa is increasingly demonstrating its commitment to promoting gender equality in the work place, with many companies adopting stronger policies and practices to support this goal.
BP is one such company that has fully embraced diversity, including improving the gender balance within the company; it is also one of the key players that set up the Women in Energy Forum launched at the end of September.
Tebogo Maenetja, HR Director at BP in Southern Africa said that while the forum was a good platform for attracting more women to the energy sector it was essential that the sector environment shake off its old-school approach to make it more accessible to female talent. She also acknowledged that these challenges are not confined to the energy sector.
“As in other fields, the family vs career issue remains a hurdle for women entering the energy sector. Women often feel the pressure to make the difficult choice between pursuing a career and raising children. The scarcity of female role models in the sector, especially in the more technical fields such as Engineering, also means that young females aspiring to pursue careers in the sector do not always have experienced role models to look up to for mentorship, coaching, and general guidance on how to juggle career and family responsibilities,” said Maenetja.
The lack of supportive Organizational Culture around issues of gender diversity is still apparent in some companies within the sector. This is often expressed through Policies, Procedures and Processes which are not always diversity sensitive, and do not promote an enabling environment for women in particular. Examples in this regard include hiring, selection and promotion processes that are sometimes inherently biased and restrictive for women to access career progression opportunities.
The Forum was conceptualized by IDEANOMICS Global, as a platform for women leaders from politics and business across Africa to debate and address the key challenges facing women in the oil, gas and energy space. The aim of the forum is to allow women leaders to connect, share industry knowledge and promote mentorship and career development.
Maenetja said energy corporates had a duty to improve on diversity-sensitive hiring, selection and promotion processes to allow more women to access career opportunities in the sector. Also, more effort needs to be put into implementing Development programs to prepare women for careers in the more technical fields, which have historically been almost exclusively a male domain.
In addition, there is a need to build on mentorship and coaching support for young women in the sector.Companies need to identify experienced female role models who can provide guidance and serve as sounding board for young female professionals.
“Additionally, it is incumbent upon organisations to create a supportive culture for women to grow and lead within the sector by being more attentive to gender diversity issues. For example, we need to become more open to offering things like flexible working arrangements and child care support, especially for talented working mothers who want to make a contribution and pursue a high-level career, yet also have to manage family demands.”
Maenetja said that although the energy sector offered exciting career prospects, there was a serious shortage of skills, especially in the technology and engineering fields.
“For the sector to deliver its mandate and contribute meaningfully to the growth of our economy, we need to leverage the talent, from both genders, and create genuine career development opportunities for young professionals entering the sector.