By Sarah Byrne

MORE change is required to attract more women to the oil and gas sector, according to Curtin University academic director Curtin Leadership Centre and director of the Maureen Bickley Centre for Women in Leadership, Linley Lord.

While there has been some increase of women working in the sector, Dr Lord said getting more women into leadership is important if the industry is striving to be internationally competitive.

“We have moved beyond a ‘fix the women’ so they will fit in approach and now need a focus on systematic change,” Dr Lord said when speaking with Oil & Gas Australia.

BP and Rigzone’s 2013 Global Diversity and Inclusion Report surveyed more than 3,000 energy professionals and highlighted male dominance in the sector as a concern.

Almost three quarters of respondents said oil and gas remains a male dominated industry and there is still a lot of progress to be made.

The report concluded the majority of energy professionals believe it was quite or very important for the sector to ensure it is attractive to women.

Nearly nine out of ten survey respondents were male, according to the report.

What needs to happen at the organisational and sector level to address the over representation of men at all levels are questions Dr Lord said need to be addressed.

With ongoing low commodity prices, it is critical to create a competitive advantage and for Australia’s industry to be internationally competitive.

Dr Lord said women are needed in leadership roles to ensure Australia’s oil and gas sector is competitive on an international level.

“It is about getting the best people and drawing from 50 per cent of the population doesn’t position you for long term success,” she said.

“Research has shown that having more women in the leadership team can lead to better financial outcomes. Diverse perspectives can improve decision making and offer new alternatives to problem solving.”

Flexible working arrangements and addressing organisational culture issues, including harassment and discrimination are key aspects of promoting gender diversity in the resources industry.

“We need to have career paths that recognise that women are more likely to have interrupted careers because of caring responsibilities,” Dr Lord said.

Respondents to BP and Rigzone’s survey noted societal conditioning, a lack of qualified candidates and family care responsibilities as the most significant barriers to increasing the proportion of women in the industry.

Implementation of science, technology, engineering and math programs in schools, offering flexible working arrangements and implementing company goals for improving gender balance were cited as the most important ways to increase female representation, according to the report.

Dr Lord described the sector as seeming masculine, uninviting or unfriendly to some which is one reason women might be put off working in oil and gas.

A lack of role models to support women in the industry was another key point Dr Lord raised.

In 2011, resource employer group, the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) established the Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA) to assist companies to increase the gender diversity of their workforces.

AWRA facilitates a number of programs and in March this year it will launch AWRA’s Guide to Flexible Work.

AMMA executive director of industry services Tara Diamond said implementation of flexible working practices across a greater number of resource industry businesses is critical to boosting women’s participation.

“AWRA’s guide provides employers with information on various flexible work arrangements and the tools to implement them in the workplace,” Ms Diamond said.