Oil and gas companies need to "build a pipeline" of female employees to spur a much-needed diversity drive in the industry, with experienced women already working in the sector having a key role to play in bringing young talent on board.

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For women, in particular, working in the oil and gas industry, having a successful career requires support from those within the sector — both men and women — and ultimately speaking up for what they want, viewers of a panel on diversity and female leadership in energy at the Rio Oil & Gas 2020 digital event on Thursday were told.

Ana Zambelli, co-ordinator of the diversity committee at the Brazilian Institute of Oil & Gas, said there are several steps companies can take to increase diversity within the industry, starting with being proactive about bringing more women into the fold.

“Stop complaining that there aren’t enough women in the pipeline — build your pipeline. There are plenty of females out there,” Zambelli, who is also managing director at Brookfield Private Equity, said.

The second step calls for a change in the company's mindset to start seeing women as being just as ambitious as men when it comes to their careers.

“Ask them what they want, and you’ll be surprised how many females are willing to move,” she said..

The final step is for women to become more vocal about what they themselves want, and for men to support women in their companies.

“Two different heads think much better than two [similar] heads,” she said. “Stop looking for people who look like you; embrace people who think differently than you.”

Female advocacy

Zambelli said that more experienced women in the industry can make the biggest difference for the younger generation as they recommend women for other jobs — a point also made by Michelle Pflueger, Chevron’s general manager of asset development in the Gulf of Mexico, on the same panel.

“Don’t be scared to advocate for yourself, and when you find out that you’re a leader, don’t be scared to advocate for other women,” Pflueger said.

Susan Farrell, vice president at analysis giant IHS Markit, added: “Don’t be afraid that you don’t have every qualification, whatever the new job is. Men don’t worry about that. They say ‘here’s a list of 10’, they say ‘I can do six’, they say ‘I’m for it, I can be the best’,” she said.

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“Women very often ... think they ought to get nine out of 10 — if not 10 out of 10. Don’t be like that. Push yourself and realise what your true capabilities are because they’re probably much greater than you think but not greater than others know. You just have to reach for things.”