‘Shortage of women’ blamed for North Sea gender pay gap

Alix Thom, Oil and Gas UK.
Alix Thom, Oil and Gas UK.

Energy chiefs have insisted a shortage of women looking to join the sector is partly to blame for the gender pay gap in the north-east.

New figures have revealed nine of the 10 companies in the north-east with a discernible gap are oil and gas firms.

Companies across the UK have been reporting numbers examining male and female pay in comparable job roles.

The results found a significant number of firms in the north-east energy sector are paying men considerably more than women or lack enough females in senior positions.

Two companies returning a widening gap in gender pay were Inverness-based Global Energy and Cape Industrial Services in Aberdeen.

Global Energy reported a 69% gap for 2018/19 compared to the previous year (19%), while Cape Industrial Services noted a 35.1% pay gap open up.

A spokesman for Cape insisted the figures did not “represent inequality” within the firm and that it pays people fairly “regardless of gender”.

He added: “In the past year we’ve had more males employed in technical roles, which accounts for the larger year on year gap.

“We’re working hard to promote diversity and inclusivity, and are working hard to attract and recruit a workforce reflective of the available talent pool.”

North Sea operator Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) International showed a stark improvement on the previous year, but was still among the top ten worst firms on gender pay overall.

The firm said it had engaged with employees “to identify specific focus areas, including promoting this through our recruitment, development and training, and through our community investment programmes.”

And Jim Booth, training executive for Tullos Training in Aberdeen, said that the industry as a whole is suffering from a shortage of women looking to join the sector or take up energy apprenticeships.

He claimed there had been significant drop in female apprentices since the oil downturn in 2014.

He said: “At the moment, we just can’t seem to get young women to see oil and gas as a place to begin their career.

“The sector was once somewhere where young people saw a future in terms of good pay and a job for life, but that really dropped off after the downturn.

“We’ve got a number of companies who would love to have a female engineer, but we just can’t get them.

“It’s a real shame, as women often make better engineers.”

Alix Thom, Oil and Gas UK’s workforce engagement and skills manager, agreed there was a shortage of women in the sector and that gender pay gap reporting should be seen as an opportunity to “develop plans to close the gap”.

She added that the industry “must work together to encourage more women into those jobs”.

Aberdeen-headquartered firm Enermech reported the greatest narrowing of the pay difference, dropping from a 33.5% gap in 2017/18 to 3.1% in 2018/19.

 

The company revealed that in recent months it had appointed a number of females to senior positions, which had impacted positively on the hourly wage pay gap.

EnerMech chief executive Doug Duguid said: “While our results have improved since last year’s submission, we recognise a gap remains and this requires further effort.

“In common with many other businesses in the oil and gas sector, we also have fewer women working offshore or in other technical roles such as engineering or project management which attract higher levels of pay.

“We are working hard to bring gender balance to our workforce and the percentage of females currently working in upper and middle quartile roles within EnerMech have increased since the previous year.”

Kathryn Hardacre, analytics lead for the gender focused group Aberdeen X-Industry Support Network (AXIS) and lead production geologist at oil and gas firm Chrysaor, added that, as a consequence of gender pay reporting, the issue has “come to the attention of boards in the sector and is now seen as a business imperative.

She added: “In this first year, the data show more operators than not have narrowed their gap and increased the percentage of women in the top pay quartile. We think this is good news.

“However, we also think there is still much to be done, and this will need sustained focus for years to come – there is no quick fix.”

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