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Energy industry develops more women as resources

PANNA MARIA – Tina Maglio-Johnson was nervous as she headed out to a drilling site for the first time.

She was in her late 20s and had just been hired as a production engineer when she found herself driving through rural Colorado without a map.

“You know what it’s like to be driving around in the field. The directions weren’t great,” she said. “And the problem is that there’s no cell service, unless you have a satellite phone. And you may be out there, and you may just have to figure it out.”

Maglio-Johnson got lost but was turned back around by a kind landowner. But her worries were not over when she got to the site.

“I didn’t know how well I’d be received because I was just out of school, and I didn’t have a lot of field experience,” she said.

To her surprise, the men welcomed her and her fresh view of things.

“They said something to me like, ‘Sometimes, people who don’t know a lot about things can notice things that we don’t because we’ve been here so long,'” she said.

That was almost 20 years ago. Since then, Maglio-Johnson has come to love the problem-solving challenges she faces in the oil and gas industry.

“We’re not manufacturing something simple in a plant. We’re doing something with the earth,” she said. “Maybe everything on the surface is predictable. It’s mechanical. But what we see down the hole isn’t. So, that’s interesting and fascinating to me.”

Maglio-Johnson has worked for the company she’s currently with, Encana, for 15 years. As a group leader in completion services, she is based in Denver and travels to Karnes County every other week, where she visits drilling and fracking sites and checks in with the production team.

When Maglio-Johnson began in the industry almost two decades ago, few women worked alongside her. But she’s witnessed the growth of the industry, bringing with it an increase in women.

The total number of employees in the oil and gas industry from 1995 to 2014. There was no data from 2000 to 2001.

The approximate number of women who worked in the oil and gas industry from 1995 to 2014. There was no data from 2000 to 2001.

Energy companies continue working toward closing the gender gap. They’ve created women’s networks that not only offer support for the women who work for the company but also help recruit more women to the field.

A 2014 report funded by the American Petroleum Institute showed women accounted for 19 percent of total employment in the combined oil and gas and petrochemical industries.

Attracting women to the workforce is important for several reasons, those in the industry say.

Diversity in the workplace has proven to drive innovation, said Tyson Taylor, the director of Organizational Development and Recruiting at Pioneer Natural Resources Company in Dallas.

“There’s so much value in having people with diverse backgrounds working together to solve problems,” she said. “There’s a ton of studies about having women in the workplace and how it adds to the bottom line.”

The percentage of women employed in the oil and gas industry from 1995 to 2014. There was no data from 2000 to 2001.

A 2014 study by NES Global Talent, a hiring agency for the oil and gas industry, emphasized the industry’s soon-to-be shortage of engineers. Half of the experienced engineering sector within the oil and gas industry is set to retire in the next decade, according to the report. And women offer an under-tapped talent pool.

Like Maglio-Johnson, many women have found their presence welcomed in the industry, according to the NES Global Talent study.

But almost half the women in the study said they do not get the same recognition as men. And, while 95 percent of women in the study said they viewed mentors as important for career advancement, 42 percent said they were neither a mentor nor a mentee.

Women’s networks, which are becoming more popular in the oil field, offer mentorship and networking opportunities.

Maglio-Johnson is the chairwoman of the Outreach Subcommittee for the Encana Women’s Network, which has an active mentorship program. The network has more than 400 members. Its mission is to “inspire and empower Encana women to reach their full potential by facilitating learning, leadership, networking and outreach.”

Women at Encana may choose from another 10 to 20 networks, a handful of which are related directly to the energy industry, Maglio-Johnson said.

Pioneer also has a women’s network, which includes a mentorship program, Taylor said.

Within the network, women are given the skills that will help them network with other women and men such as playing golf.

“Especially in the oil and gas industry, you are asked to play golf a lot or skeet shooting,” Taylor said. “We want to make sure that things that women haven’t done a lot of that we’re giving them the skills they need in and outside the network.”

Pioneer has also increased its child-care benefits. When the company built a new office in Midland six months ago, it added an on-site day care.

But the industry as a whole has fallen short on recruiting women into blue-collar jobs. And the low numbers of women in the semi-skilled and unskilled blue-collar jobs are projected to decline further in the future, according to the American Petroleum Institute funded report.

Click on this photo for more information about women’s role in the 2014 U.S. workforce.

Taylor said Pioneer has attempted to bridge this gap by offering training for people with inexperience in the oil field. But the company does not get many applications for the blue-collar jobs.

Yet, the industry’s constant need for new ideas benefits at all levels from women’s employment.

“This industry doesn’t work without the hundreds of thousands of people working together to make it work,” Maglio-Johnson said. “You have to have so many people from different types of disciplines and different backgrounds and different parts of the country to make it work. You need all this diversity to drive this innovation and collaboration. That’s really pretty cool to me.”

 

This article was written by Sara Sneath from Victoria Advocate, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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