Inspirational leaders from the across the emerging energy sector gathered in Aberdeen on Tuesday, September 26, for the inaugural Women In New Energy conference.
Co-founded by Beena Sharma and Annabel Sall and supported by Energy Voice, Women In New Energy (W.I.N.E) aims to support and celebrate the critical role women have in shaping the future of the energy sector.
The platform brings together women working in the new energy sector to share knowledge through networking, mentoring and collaboration.
Held at The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen, the capacity crowd heard from keynote speakers including television presenter and multiple Sunday Times best-selling author Andrea McLean and Geostock Sandia petroleum engineer and unconventional expert Alessandra Simone.
The event also featured two panel discussions and Q&A sessions focusing on local leaders and international influencers, an exclusive mentoring clinic from Axis Network and a private workshop from 3t.
“Phenomenal response” to first event
CCU International CEO Beena Sharma said they were not expecting such a “phenomenal response” to the event, with over attendees tuning in virtually after all tickets sold out.
“It just goes to show that this was much needed in the industry,” Ms Sharma said.
“We literally launched and within weeks we were at full capacity.”
ThinkPR CEO Annabel Sall said the inspiration for W.I.N.E came from a discussion about ways to support and engage with women in new energy in a social setting, though its acronym was a happy accident.
Having experienced both the challenges and opportunities of the energy sector over the course of her career, Ms Sall said she was passionate about communicating the success stories of the sector “especially to the younger generation”, including the successes of the industry’s women.
Speaking about her own experiences at the beginning of her career, Ms Sharma said she had a “baptism of fire” when she took on her first role in Nigeria at the age of 21.
In that role she was one of the only women working alongside six thousand men, she said, an all too common experience for women in oil and gas.
“I had to make my way through that massive crowd and make sure that I was counted in the industry,” she said.
“It has been a struggle, but there has also been a humongous amount of success stories and a huge amount of support, not just from women but actually mostly for me from men.”
“I’ve got to where I have got to because there have been men in the industry who have supported me through that journey.”
But as the industry expands into new and emerging energy technologies, Ms Sharma and many of the W.I.N.E. panellists said there was an exciting opportunity to rewrite the rulebook to create a more inclusive working environment.
Harnessing “personal energy”
Delivering the opening address, Ms McLean spoke about the challenges of working as a high-profile woman in television and emphasised the importance of combating burnout and finding ways to rediscover and harness your “personal energy”.
Sharing her personal story of experiencing burnout and “breaking down” while attending the National Television Awards in 2019, McLean said many women feel they must “wear a mask”.
“This should have been yet another career high,” she said. “I cried all the way there.”
“For me, (the mask) was the hair. It was the makeup. It was the lovely dress and smiling on a red carpet.
“(It’s) the mask that we all wear when our own personal energy levels are depleted.”
Pointing to a LinkedIn survey where 74% of women said they were very or somewhat stressed for work-related reasons, compared to 61% of male respondents, McLean said it demonstrated the importance of recognising when “your natural energy resources are depleting”.
Local Leaders and International Influencers
In the first panel discussion of the day North Sea industry leaders discussed the importance of allyship and representation, gender pay disparity and whether enough was being done to attract young women to the energy sector.
The ‘Local Leaders’ panel included Ingrid Huldal (Expro), Christina Horspool (X-Academy), Sarah Clark (Wood), Martin Hottass (3t) and Jessica McGlynn (Leyton).
Following the first panel, attendees participated in a mentoring seminar and exclusive clinic from AXIS Network hosted by Rachel Mackay (Seascape Coaching), Susan Greyson (Younique Inclusion) and Mini Nambiar (SSEN Transmission).
The ‘International Influencers’ panel featured focused on a range of international experiences within the energy sector, discussing the impact of different cultural behaviours on girls’ education, effecting change within international organisations and the importance of intersectionality to diversity and inclusion efforts.
For more information and to attend future events, visit Energy Voice’s Women In New Energy website.