The oil and gas industry is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, providing thousands of direct and indirect jobs and contributing substantially to the nation’s foreign reserves.
It is a known fact that oil alone accounts for 40 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 70 per cent of budget revenues and 95 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.
Despite the invaluable contribution of the sector to the economy, experts believe that it still has huge potential, and that there is need for deliberate inclusion of women in the sector to unlock the potential.
However, the industry remains male-dominated at all levels; from leadership roles in major corporations to jobs in mines and on oil rigs.
According to a recent study by the Global Energy Talent Index, whereas women make up 48 per cent of the global labour force, they only account for 22 per cent of the labour force in the oil and gas sector.
The study said women occupied about 50 per cent of non-technical positions at entry-level compared to only 15 per cent of technical and field role positions.
“This implies that the gender diversity and inclusion decreases with seniority, with only a tiny proportion of women in executive positions.
“The percentage of women in the industry drops from 36 per cent to 24 per cent between the middle and executive levels,” the study added.
In Nigeria, women have been pushing for more inclusion in the energy space and are beginning to make progress despite the socio-economic, political and cultural challenges.
For instance, Mrs Elohor Aiboni, was in March 2021 appointed as the first female Managing Director of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd. (SNEPCO).
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari, in January 2022 appointed Sen. Margery Chuba-Okadigbo as the pioneer Board Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Ltd.
Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, said the Federal Government had been deliberate in introducing gender-friendly policies that would promote women inclusion in the oil and gas industry.
Sylva, who spoke at a recent Nigerian Women in Oil and Gas Conference in Lagos, said this included increasing access to funding, award of contracts and support for research and development in the interest of women operators in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
The minister harped on the need to get more girls into Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), which was a pathway to careers in the oil and gas industry.
He also advised women in the Nigerian oil and gas industry to work together towards increasing participation of women in the industry by engendering growth, building capacities and capabilities, identifying opportunities, mentoring and coaching.
Also, Mr Simbi Wabote, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), recently announced that the board would soon begin the disbursement of the 40 million dollar Women in Energy Fund to support women in the sector.
Wabote said the fund was set up by the NCDMB in partnership with the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM Bank), adding that 15 applications had been received and three had been approved for disbursement.
He also canvassed the inclusion of women in the administration of the various Trusts and Funds that were established by the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, notably the Host Community Development Trust, Host Community Development Trust Fund and Environmental Remediation Fund.
The NCDMB boss further confirmed that the Oil and Gas Industrial Parks in Bayelsa and Cross River were getting ready for completion and would commence operations in 2023.
He noted that the board had started inviting applicants for allocation of plots to set up manufacturing outfits in the park and encouraged women-owned businesses with workable proposals to apply.
Wabote promised that women would be given special consideration as part of the board’s commitment to mainstream them into the oil and gas industry.
On her part, Chuba-Okadigbo has challenged the NCDMB to institute a development programme like the Project 100 for oil and gas firms owned by women.
She said the implementation of the PIA provided a good opportunity to mainstream more women in oil and gas activities and also recommended formal mentorship and role modelling for younger women.
While the recent appointments of Chuba-Okadigbo and Aiboni are quite significant, experts believe that there is a lot that still need to be done for inclusion of more women in the oil and gas industry.
Mrs Funmi Ogbue, President, Women in Energy Network, insists that government at all levels should promote women leadership in the energy sector by appointing more women to head agencies and institutions at sectional, regional and international levels.
Ogbue said this would help bridge the gap in the sector, while also giving more women opportunities to contribute their quota to national development.
Also, Mrs Anita Ogboile, Chief Executive Officer, Deep Blue Energy, said there was need to create awareness of STEM and its importance to younger females, especially those in secondary schools.
Ogboile said demystifying the myth that women would not succeed in the industry was very key and would help encourage others to go into the sector.
Indeed, the exploits of women in the oil and gas sector holds brighter prospects for the sector, and invariably the economy.