I have for many years pondered the sheer stupidity of the gender imbalance problem and not just in the context of the energy industry.
Not many weeks ago, I lost my mother at the age of 92. A hugely positive person, the reality is that she had endured some pretty tough times at various points along the decades and made big personal sacrifices.
Among the toughest was shelving her ambition to become a bacteriologist following service in the UK Women’s Land Army during World War II and a bit beyond.
Rosalinde Conwy Moody was at Aberystwyth University but was to find herself captivated by a young farmer come budding agricultural scientist, Eric Cresswell, whom she married in the winter of 1949 amid the snows of Cumbria.
In 1953, the family (including me by then) uprooted to Canada, not as emigrants fleeing grim post-war Britain but following Dad who, as a Cockshutt Scholar, had decided to read for a Master’s Degree at the University of Guelph, Ontario.
But it was Mum who was the breadwinner … working in the labs at Guelph for the duration. Several years later, we were on our way to New Zealand, this time because Dad was pursuing his PhD. Mum took in lodgers to make ends meet.
And after that, like so many women of her generation, and highly intelligent with it, Rosalinde never got the chance to pick up her personal ambition.
Instead, she raised a brood of four, became a grandmother several times over and devoted much of her spare time to charitable causes and learning for its own sake.
I often wonder how far Mum might have progressed, even in the chauvinistic 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and, shabbily, into New Millennium.
She would likely have done rather well, but you can bet your bottom dollar she would still have been penalised for being a woman and a mother by, shall we call it, “The System”.
Since late 1989, when I started to engage with the energy world, especially offshore oil and gas, I rapidly learned just how shockingly chauvinistic it was then and, in my opinion, regrettably still is.
I’ve met so many highly qualified, intelligent women that I’ve lost count. But they have always been in the minority and many have told me that it’s tough trying to cope with male egos inflated by high salaries and fat expense accounts.
Not only that, few will have been paid at the same level as their male counterparts, which is grossly unfair.
At least now, with a modest number of very strong women now in key CEO positions, OGUK’s Deirdre Michie, for example, there is some chance of redressing the imbalance.
But I fear that it will take determined implementation of the force of law before real progress is made. And then it will be slow.
I’ve frequently travelled to Norway and admire the manner in which companies like Statoil have addressed the gender imbalance comprehensively.
The Norwegians are decades ahead of the UK though it took the force of law … the Gender Equality Act of 1979 … to get things moving.
However, unfortunately, nearly 40 years later, ethnic Norwegian men still dominate in positions of power in most sectors of Norwegian society.
But if the gender thing is still a problem there; try Britain. We’re appalling.
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