On March 8, various energy companies in Nigeria rolled out beautiful designs, marking International Women’s Day, with lovely quotes splashed across, paying homage to women. Unfortunately, this homage is nothing more than lip service if women are still kept outside their boardrooms.
An International Energy Agency (IEA) commentary reveals that fewer women reach senior roles in the energy sector than in the broader economy. The commentary further revealed that boardroom participation in energy companies for women is between 3-4% compared to other sectors like finance and communication that have up to 21%.
Cecilia Tam, an analyst with the IEA in a 2018 report quipped “The energy sector remains one of the least gender-diverse sectors in the economy”. One research by S&P Global shows that only 1% of CEOs in oil and gas companies around the world are women, with women holding less than 17% executive jobs in the sector. A recent LinkedIn analysis found that women make up just 26.7% of all oil and gas industry profiles on the platform, the lowest percentage of any of the dozen industries examined in the analysis.
The Wall Street Journal, in a report titled “Where Are All The Female CEOs?” examined why with women earning majority of college degrees today and making up roughly half of the workforce, there is still a very negligible percentage of women CEOs. These statistics are worrying, and do in fact question the pomp and pageantry employed in marking International Women’s Day across these companies. The Nigerian energy sector has become a boys club. A critical look at the top ten oil and gas companies in Nigeria reveals that they all have male CEOs.
So how can we make more female CEOs in the energy sector? As the Wall Street Journal points out in one report, “the traditional stepping stones to the Chief Executive position are jobs responsible for the bottom line and those roles are still overwhelmingly filled by men”. With women left out of these roles where their work directly contributes to the bottom line and their managerial/leadership expertise is determined, there is no training ground for them or opportunity to assess their abilities there. As such when appointments to C-Suite positions are made, they are not considered. Instead, these women typically hold support roles in information technology, human resources and legal.
There is no justification for women being outside the boardroom. An S&P Global market Intelligence report revealed that companies with women in the boardroom tend to perform better than those that have less gender-diverse boards and companies with more gender-diverse boards tend to have higher credit ratings.
A study by the Petroleum Equipment and Services Association (PESA) found that companies with at least 30% female leaders end up raking in 6% higher net margins, and companies with a higher percentage of women in executive positions have a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those that do not. A McKinsey research showed that companies in the top quartile for executive team gender diversity are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the fourth quartile.
There is more – A World Economic Forum (WEF) study has shown that companies with strong female leadership deliver a 36% higher return on equity while Grant Thornton reports that companies with at least one female executive board member have historically outperformed those with male-only boards. American Express in its leadership style research reveals that women outperform men in 12 of the 16 essential leadership traits.
With these overwhelming statistics, it is counterintuitive for the Nigerian energy sector to keep its women out of the boardroom. Also, in the very few places where we have women energy company CEOs in Nigeria, we can see the commendable work they have done; Audrey Joe-Ezigbo with Falcon Oil, Catherine Uju-Ifejika with Brittania-U, Amy Jadesimi with LADOL, amongst others.
Supporting women starts with disbanding the boys club. And this has to be intentional. There has to be a positive commitment of Nigerian energy companies and their leaderships to promote a culture that openly encourages women participation. These companies should invest in scholarships, mentorship programs, career talks in schools and other programs for young women, encouraging them to explore STEM fields in order to increase the number of women seeking energy sector careers.
They should openly advance gender-equality goals and place women in more functional, leadership and managerial roles, rather than only support roles. In recruiting, they should be intentional about providing incentives for women, like a clear path to the top, flexible hours, maternity leave that does not compromise women’s work benefits and ample career development prospects.
We cannot honestly say the future is female when the female is outside our energy boardrooms. This essentially means we are locking the future outside. Perhaps that accounts for the snail-paced nature of Nigeria’s energy industry so far.