I’ve long been a believer in equality between men and women; why would it be otherwise? That women lose out significantly across all sectors of business and industry after the age of 40 especially is crazy.
My better half, an academic, is among the millions who have suffered at the hands of the male ego, and it happens to be particularly bad in British academia. Indeed the universities world is riven in that regard.
But what of the oil and gas industry, still generally regarded as among the most chauvinistic in the world?
In the almost 30 years that I’ve specialised in the energy sector, and especially upstream offshore oil and gas, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many young women during the early stage of their career.
And there are certainly a lot more finding their way into the industry today than at the end of the 1980s; but nowhere near as many as I believe there should be.
At least there’s now the start of a very modest population of women in the driving seat of companies and other organisations though the situation in boardrooms remains dire.
Whether an MD, chief executive and/or a member of the board, many of those who have made it to the upper echelons found smashing through the glass ceiling really tough.
Does that battle make them any better as bosses than their male counterparts? On balance, I think so.
But I personally have been on the receiving end of self-centred, patronising arrogance easily the match of the worst of men. So, a word of caution.
That women of rank remain a scarce commodity in many companies across the North Sea industry quite probably has an important bearing on the gender gap at work … both in terms of percentage of the workforce and pay.
By the same token, I suspect that applies right across industry and academia in the UK.
And until there is equality at the top, the gender issues that dog so many companies and other organisations will probably never be solved, even if the force of law was applied.
But even that is no guarantee.
There are very few sectors where gender equality seems on the face of it to have been achieved and one is the legal profession in England and Wales.
Today, there are more female than male lawyers and yet there is still a big gender issue dogging that profession.
According to the Law Society of England and Wales, 60% of female lawyers are aware of a gender pay gap in their place of work. And, shockingly, “only 16% see visible steps taken to address gender pay gap”.
But there will I think always be exceptions to the gender equality golden dream. And there’s one company in the gender data analysis undertaken by the Press and Journal that illustrates that.
That company is Global Energy Group.
On the face of it, the Global Energy stats seem to speak of a company going backwards gender-wise. But to interpret the numbers that way without taking into account the nature of the company, composition of its workforce and local demographics would be wrong.
Global Energy has a large workforce; its order-book appears to be building again as North Sea oil and gas activity recovers and offshore renewables take off big-time.
It means that the MacGregor family are hiring across the “black trades” spectrum … welders, riggers, fabricators, platers, scaffolders and suchlike.
And guess what; women are point blank not interested, according to Global Energy Group, and I believe them.
Even in Russian heavy industry during the Communist era, this was a tough nut to crack. And it always will be.
Perhaps the foregoing puts the oil and gas industry’s own struggle in some perspective. I hope it does.