The news that so many girls growing up in Scotland don’t think they are smart enough or too weak to pursue a STEM career is a wake-up call for everyone involved in helping these young women make choices about their future.
What’s even more worrying is that girls don’t believe these roles are for them despite science being one of the subjects they enjoy most at school, according to the survey.
For the oil and gas industry, the North Sea might be a mature region but there will still be jobs out there for engineers for years to come, and the industry needs to work with schools and universities to encourage more girls to believe in themselves and consider a career in the sector.
Just this week, we have welcomed girls from two north-east schools to our offices in Aberdeen, and they have met women working in the industry who can help break the myth that engineering is just for boys.
As a society we are making progress – it was only a generation ago that a woman was stopped from running the Boston Marathon – it was illegal for a woman to run more than a mile because they were “too fragile”.
However, my biggest disappointment is how few technical women we have in the Exploration & Production industry even now.
Women bring a different dimension to problem solving and technical interpretation, so a multi-discipline, diverse team brings a wider range of solutions and ideas and delivers better performance.
That has been our experience within Centrica – when we have mixed teams we see a different dynamic with great delivery.
In today’s world of instant and continuous communication, global access and multimedia focus, there is a lot more competition for mathematical and analytical minds beyond traditional engineering.
So attracting innovative and technical women to a more traditional environment, which is also perceived as predominantly male, can be a challenge.
We need to rebrand the image of our industry to fit the 21st Century, where the challenges of delivering energy to our homes through innovative, clean and cost efficient engineering solutions is exciting and captures the imagination of the next generation.
Colette Cohen is Senior Vice President for Centrica Energy’s Exploration and Production business in the UK and Netherlands, based in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Prior to joining Centrica in August 2013, Colette was Managing Director of the independent company Britannia Operator, seconded from ConocoPhillips. With over 20 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry, Colette’s career has spanned a number of technical and managerial roles in the UK and abroad.