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IPEC 2012: Promoting Industry Diversity

The International Professionals in Energy Conference (IPEC 2012) “Empowering Women’s Leadership” was held recently in Kuwait under the patronage of the Kuwait Minister of Oil and Chairman of the Board of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation Hani A. Hussain.

During the two days of IPEC 2012, attendees representing international oil companies, national oil companies, multinational service companies, consulting firms, and academia discussed topics related to gender diversity in the industry. More than 270 delegates representing 53 companies from 15 countries attended.

The opening ceremony featured Farouk Al Zanki, deputy chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO, Kuwait Petroleum, and Hosnia Hashim, deputy managing director, North Kuwait, Kuwait Oil, who was also the conference chairperson. The executive plenary session included Sami Al Rushaid, chairman and managing director, Kuwait Oil; Maha Mulla Hussain, chairperson and managing director, Petrochemical Industries Company; Andrew Gould, chairman, BG Group; and Bernadette Spinoy, senior vice president, refining and petrochemicals Eastern Hemisphere, Total. The speakers shared their personal experiences and their companies’ strategies for creating balanced leadership.

Held alongside IPEC was a Regional Education Day, attended by 200 students from public and private schools in Kuwait. The aim was to introduce students to the discipline of petroleum engineering and the industry in general.

Three key concepts arose during the conference:

  • The inclusion, retention, and empowerment of women in the workforce is a clear business necessity.
  • Companies need to ensure that all employees positively embrace the increased presence of women in the workforce.
  • The implementation of gender-balanced guidelines for promotion processes is necessary.

The inclusion, retention, and em-powerment of women was described as important because the expansion plans of the industry to meet global energy demand will require new staff. The second concept, one met with surprise by several attendees, is the recognition of the need to train men in the industry to accept and embrace the incremental presence of women in all roles and ranks of the workplace, especially in field operations, where a female presence is still uncommon in many places of the world. In field operations, special accommodations and facilities may be needed to follow cultural acceptance.

The third key concept will require implementation of gender-balanced guidelines for promotion to maintain managerial balance in companies.

Panelists concluded that the industry’s workforce is in need of change to reach its potential, and that future energy challenges will require richer and more diverse viewpoints. The oil industry must incorporate concepts of diverse work teams as well as best practices in diversity and inclusion processes to enable and promote contribution from professionals with different experiences and perspectives. This diversity will allow for better decisions.