The incoming president of the Energy Institute (EI) has condemned the “appalling” record of oil and gas on gender and ethnic diversity.
Steve Holliday, former CEO of the National Grid, is president-elect of EI and will officially take up the role in July.
He described oil and gas as the “worst” sector for diversity, with progress being “glacial” in the last five to ten years.
Mr Holliday was CEO of National Grid for almost ten years before stepping down in 2016, championing inclusion during his tenure.
Attracting a more diverse workforce will play a key role in addressing the industry’s skills shortage, according to Mr Holliday, who added that many people in the sector currently “just don’t get it”.
He said: “If I look at what we achieved at National Grid and I look at where we are in the oil and gas industry right now, the oil and gas industry is appalling. Absolutely awful. It’s pretty much the worst sector for diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity.
“The rate of progress, when you look at it over the last five to 10 years, it is what I would describe as glacial. I think the stat is, globally, it’s only eight percent female. It’s quite unbelievable.”
Mr Holliday will speak on the issue at the annual EI dinner for the Aberdeen, Highlands and Islands branch in May.
According to latest figures published in 2014, the overall oil and gas workforce is made up 23% by women, well below the national average for UK industries at 47%.
At boardroom level that figure drops further, and it’s even lower for the offshore workforce which is three percent female.
National Grid is part of an energy leaders coalition to champion women in the industry along with the likes of Shell and Scottish Power, aimed at driving up the number of females in senior roles.
The firm also sponsored the Leadership Conference for Women in Energy in London last year.
Mr Holliday is seeking to use his experience on the issue to drive it home for oil and gas.
He added: “The reason why I’m going to be talking about it in Aberdeen and going on and on about it for the next few years as well is we’ve got quite clearly a bunch of people that work in the industry at the moment who don’t quite get it.
“In my old life at the National Grid I championed diversity and, with a lot of hard work, managed to significantly increase the amount of females in our business and could see first-hand the huge difference with men in idea-generation.
“We’ve got to do something about things to really inject a sense of urgency and not assume it’s going to look after itself.
“Whether its oil and gas, whether its renewables, whether it’s all the associated industries around it, there is a tremendous opportunity both for men and women and we’ve got to do more to bring that home in the next few years.
“The oil and gas industry is going to have to step up and make quite a significant investment in this in the next few years to get the most out of the opportunity that is there.”