Policy and fiscal incentives, STEM education for the girl child, career growth opportunities for breeding mothers, and displacement cultural norms with task delivery competence form part of the numerous recommendations that pumped out from the gender and diversity debates at the just concluded Sub-Saharan International Petroleum Conference (SAIPEC).
The gender parity sessions of the conference which formed part of the agenda setting summits of the regional energy industry provided veritable platform for the crusade by the Women In Energy Network (WIEN) to drill in key messages of its female capacity optimization advocacy.
SAIPEC which was hosted at the main convention center of Eko Hotels and Suites provided regional scope for WIEN whose activities in promoting opportunities for female professionals, investors and workers have largely concentrated in Nigeria.
WIEN contends that equity, equality and inclusiveness of all genders have become critical to accelerate the economic development of the continent, pointing at studies that show that countries that empower women with corporate board leadership and political leadership positions advance faster.
At SAIPEC, WIEN hosted twin seminars on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion which featured panel discussions that produced very strong points for pan-regional collaboration for the advancement of the female content in industry contributions towards Africa’s economic and social development.
In her opening remarks, the President of WIEN, Mrs Funmi Ogbue, drew a direct relationship among the themes of collaboration, sustainability, and advancement; saying they also align with the theme of the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) “Embrace Equity.”
“As the CEO of Zigma Limited and co-founder of WIEN, I have been actively involved in the development of the energy industry in Sub-Saharan Africa for several years. Over the years, I have witnessed the growth and evolution of the industry and I am proud to have played a role in its progress. However, I am also acutely aware that the African energy industry still faces numerous challenges, and there is stillmuch work to be done if we are to achieve our goal of a sustainable and thriving industry that benefits everyone,” she told the industry audience.
According to her, “embracing equity means acknowledging and addressing the problem of gender inequality in the energy industry.
“It means creating a more equal and inclusive industry, where all individuals, regardless of gender, have equal opportunities to contribute to and benefit from the energy industry. This is not just a matter of fairness, but it is also essential for the sustainable growth of the industry.”
She pointed out that the positive relationship among the objectives of the industry and the crusade for gender equity is a reminder of the need to promote inclusion in the energy industry.
Mrs Ogbue pointed at the results of a recent study conducted by WIEN which show that there is a lack of adequate representation where only 11.4% hold management positions and 8.6% finance-related roles.
“This serves as a reminder of the importance of embracing equity by breaking down traditional attitudes and beliefs and creating new opportunities for women in the energy industry. It is through building partnerships and synergies across the entire value chain of the energy industry that we can address the challenges and realize our shared goals,” she said.
In addressing gender imbalances in roles and opportunities in the energy sector, Mrs Ogbue drew the attention of delegates to a survey that calls for organizations that must champion advocacies, mentorships, training and research.
Delivering on these roles, according to her, would require collaboration among institutions, organizations and industry groups pursuing similar goals in collapsing and dismantling gender borders.
She reiterated the need for collaboration, resource pooling, deployment of expertise and amassment of experiences “to achieve our common goals.”
Panelists from Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Uganda who took turns on the topic argued that accelerating progress towards legislated gender equality is key for a successful economic recovery of Africa, noting that greater contribution of women in economic activities has been linked to smaller wage gap and better development outcomes such as women’s health and education.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Waltersmith Petroman Limited, Mr Chike Nwosu, who was the only male speaker, made it clear that good business value propositions and best industry practices all align with offering growth opportunities to all gender workforces.
He made it clear that good business managers have since recognized the need to balance corporate board and management positions across gender divides, stressing that setbacks in training opportunities for women answering natural procreation duties could now be bridged with digital platforms for learning.
He called on managers of corporate entities to adopt gender diversity as part of their key performance indicators (KPI) in line with the parameters of the global mandate on ESG.
He also called on corporate chiefs to take deliberate actions towards gender diversity in their organizations, adding that succession plans into executive positions should be managed to support gender balancing.
In calling for regulatory structures that enforce gender diversity, Mr. Nwosu recommended fiscal rewards in terms of tax credits and access to funding for companies that comply with the dual requirements of sustainable development goals (SDG) as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) as they relate to gender equity.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Senegal Oil and Gas Academy (SOGA), Mrs Aissatou Cissokho, called for legal framework to support the gender right advocacy in the continent.
According to her, countries in the continent must come up with legal provisions that guarantee women good positions in the industries traditionally dominated by men, she called for specific quotas for women who play in such industries.
She said women are demonstrating industry leadership in her country where the petroleum minister is also a woman.
She called on WIEN to provide leadership, expertise and excellence for African women in the petroleum industry, emphasizing that advocacy must deemphasize entitlements and privileges and accentuate the mindset for qualification and excellence.
In advancing reasons other than non performance for the backward role of women in management position of companies, the Asset Manager in charge of Deepwater non-operated Venture at Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) Limited, Mrs Ibiyemi Ashaolu, made it clear that men rise faster than women because of the family responsibility for pregnancy and gestation.
While pointing out that female quotient in Shell hovers above 25 percent, Mrs Ashaolu noted that companies are beginning to install deliberate measures to guarantee balance at management and board leadership roles.
She pointed at Shell companies like SNEPCO and All-On as clear indications of women leadership in the industry, insisting however that greater advocacy is required to differentiate workplace roles from family roles in considering women for leadership positions.
In her contribution to the debate, the President and Chief Executive Officer of National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Atty. Saifuah-Mai Gray, strongly canvassed for early grooming of women for positions in technical areas of the industry in order to position them for placement when the opportunity calls.
She pointed at her company where she said men comprise the entire technical team because, according to her, the women are not qualified to be helped into positions.
She supported the call for intentional placement of women in leadership roles touse them in providing opportunity for those coming after them. And for the women to justify space for those behind them, she noted, they must display excellence in performance.
The General Manager in charge of LNG Asset at TotalEnergies Nigeria, Mrs Florence Ilaka, told the forum that policies must be installed to protect women who are on natural procreation calls from career retrogression.
She commended companies like TotalEnergies which have set visible KPIs to increase the female quotient of their management teams. She noted that such changes in structural provisions now drive growth of qualified women into management roles.
Co-founder and Deputy Managing Director of Falcon Corporation, Mrs Audrey Joe-Ezigbo, told the audience that the problem of career women goes beyond corporate provisions in the industry to include social views and appraisal of their roles in making contributions to the socio-economy.
While stressing that women are not in direct competition for supremacy with men, she called for cultural connotations that work against women to be urgently addressed.
WIEN Digest reports that the association’s exhibition booth at the expo arena of the conference witnessed a beehive of activities as many visitors thronged the stand in desire to know more about the group. Also, numerous excited women obtained forms to explore membership of WIEN.