OEUK’s Diversity and Inclusion Report last year, which garnered the views of some 1600 people from over 100 organisations in the UK Oil and Gas industry, made for sobering, if unsurprising, reading.
The UKCS D&I Index highlighted disabled employees’ concerns regarding respect and access to career opportunities, and ethnic minority worker concerns regarding acceptance, belonging and how they are perceived at work. Women were more likely than men to view flexible working as a barrier to career progression, whilst LBGTQ+ personnel spoke to the challenge of being sufficiently comfortable to be themselves at work and open with their colleagues.
When considering D&I initiatives in the UK oil and gas industry, there should be an acknowledgement of the societal backdrop and history of the sector. Many working in the UK oil and gas industry live in Scotland, which has a population significantly less diverse than the rest of the UK. In addition, when exploration and production in the North Sea commenced in earnest over forty years ago, it was staffed by a predominantly white male workforce. Low participation of women in technical roles is mirrored by the lack of women graduating in STEM disciplines. The sector is now dealing with a very mature energy basin, and detractors argue that D&I has begun too late in the day for what has been a relatively conservative working environment.
Nonetheless, D&I remains a key element of any organisation’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy; essential to attracting both capital and contracts, in the industry’s drive towards the North Sea Transition Deal and Net Zero. This coincides with an increasingly clear expectation from a generation of workers the industry might look to attract, that they want and expect inclusive workplaces.
More work to break the mould
The benefits of D&I are apparent to those who have invested the greatest resources in this area. The business case has long since been made out, with research supporting that genuine emphasis on D&I principles leads to greater profitability and performance, an increase in collaboration and innovation, stronger confidence in recruitment processes, lower attrition levels, and a more contented workforce.
Any organisation wanting to shift the dial within their business needs to make sure that it instils an4 approach of “Diversity and Inclusion by design and default” (to borrow phraseology from the UK GDPR). This means integrating D&I into all business practices, including the whole employment lifecycle and relationships with business partners and stakeholders. Key to this strategy is obtaining support from the highest level of leadership. A clear statement of D&I values should be created and fed into policies, procedures, projects, and ongoing training for all staff. Managers must be encouraged to live these standards and lead by example, reacting to any inappropriate behaviours in real time. Steps should be taken so that recruitment reflects the diversity of the larger workforce and its needs, through a widening of the candidacy pool and a re-evaluation of job descriptions, working arrangements and marketing materials. Once recruited, clear systems should be created so that underrepresented groups have ready access to mentoring, coaching, and career development opportunities. Where possible, internal community groups should be established, which can provide a direct line to employee views and support the driving of clear messages through the workforce.
Some excellent work is already being progressed in this space at all levels of the sector. However, no one is any doubt that much more needs to be done to mould the industry so that every member of staff feels able to showcase their talents and reach their full potential.