Subsea services group Acteon has recently interviewed Laura Wood, Business Development Manager at UTEC, an Acteon company, on the subject of gender diversity in the male-dominated energy industry, and the role of women in S.T.E.M ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Wood is a member of the Aberdeen X-Industry Support Network (AXIS), a body focused on increasing gender balance in the energy industry.
Offshore Engineer is sharing the interview with permission from Acteon.
Q: What is your perception of Women in S.T.E.M?
A: I believe that occupation doesn’t need to have a gender associated with it, regardless of which sector or field it supports. Women who love science, technology and engineering should feel that they can be influential and contribute their ideas as much as their fellow male counterparts. There is still an imbalance with females only making up 12.37% of all engineers in the UK, and only one in five jobs are held by women in the wider engineering sector. These figures show that there is still work to be done around gender parity.
Q: What do you think are the reasons behind this imbalance?
A: Contending with gender stereotypes may be an attributing factor. Confronting bias opinions, whether they are conscious or unconscious, is unfortunately still a reality that many women experience throughout their working lives. As an industry, we need to challenge old-fashioned principles and ensure that every person has a great opportunity to create a new future and decide what this looks like.
Diversity is going to be key to the future of engineering and innovation because it encourages different perspectives and increases the generation of ideas.
Q: What do you think the solution might be to address this?
A: I don’t think there is one simple solution. What I know, from my own personal experience, is that motivation tends to come from working on things we care about and working with people we care about. Companies and the industry must try to create an environment where everybody, regardless of gender, feel valued and supported, as this could act as a catalyst for change.
Q: Why is diversity so important in the engineering sector?
A: The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way we receive information, how we process it, how we work and what jobs we will do. It is happening so quickly that we simply cannot afford to have any less than our whole population engaged. I believe that it is in our own best interest to have a sector that truly represents and reflects society. Diversity is going to be key to the future of engineering and innovation because it encourages different perspectives and increases the generation of ideas. Research has already demonstrated that companies are 15% more likely to perform better if they have a diverse workforce.
Q: What have you learned about diversity since working in the energy industry?
A: Working in the industry has certainly made me aware of the gender imbalance, which is one of the reasons I am so passionate about influencing change and encouraging the next generation of women within STEM. I feel it is the responsibility of every employee in the industry to help create the best, most inclusive and balanced environment possible so aspiring female engineers can reach their full potential. I feel it is important to create a strong sense of community across all sections of life so we can help break the occupational gender myth.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring female professionals in the energy industry?
A: I would advise any young woman starting in her career to believe in themselves, so they achieve their full potential. Also, instead of adapting to the energy in a room, try to influence it. My advice to anybody, regardless of gender, is to work hard to build their career, persevere, cultivate a strong network of professional relationships, and trust in their own judgment.
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