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With the energy sector representing a predominantly male dominated industry, it has become clear that women have an increasingly important role to play in Africa’s energy future. In light of this, MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power 2021 hosted a women in oil and gas seminar that addressed the challenges faced by women while at the same time offering critical solutions to enhancing inclusivity.
Speakers included Cissoko Niasse, Founder and CEO, Senegal Oil and Gas Academy, Senegal; Oumy Khairy Diop, Director Strategy and Regulation, Ministry of Petroleum and Energies, Senegal; and Rokhaya Fall, President of the African Women’s Platform for the Development of the Solidarity and Social Economy; Rebecca King, VP Production for Mauritania and Senegal, BP, moderated by Onyeka Cindy Ojogbo, Energy and Projects Attorney, Centurion Law Group; provided critical insight into the challenges faced by women in the industry, opportunities for inclusive improvements, and the role women have and continue to play in driving Africa’s energy growth.
One of the primary takeaways from the seminar was the fact that the lack of diversity and inclusion in the African energy industry begins at the primary level.
“If we look at the stats, it is clear that a lot of these young girls that have extremely good results in their studies, do not pursue these types of jobs because they are not guided to it, they are not led to these areas by their families and their teachers, and that must also change,” stated Oumy Khairy Diop, Director Strategy and Regulation, Ministry of Petroleum and Energies, Senegal.
Additionally, speakers explored some of the roadblocks that keep women from firstly entering the industry, and then subsequently progressing once they have entered the industry. During the seminar, key takeaways included the need for the breakdown of the barriers to entry.
“The challenges to female participation can be found in the smallest of things. An oil and gas platform is a risky environment to work in. We need to wear overalls and gloves for security reasons. Well, traditionally this equipment is designed for men. I have never been able to find gloves that would fit me, and that represents a security concern and an obviously simple problem to fix but that still represents a deterrent to female participation,” Rebecca King, VP Production for Mauritania and Senegal VP.
Meanwhile, the seminar emphasized the role that men play in advocating for increased visibility and inclusion of women. If the industry is to see any progress regarding equal opportunities and participation, both men and women need to play a defining role in breaking down barriers.
“It is clear that the industry is waking up to the need for female leadership in the energy sector. Companies and men themselves are seeing the need for more female leaders in several different sectors and women are taking more management roles, which is reassuring,” added Aissatou Cissoko Niasse, Founder and CEO, of Senegal’s Oil and Gas Academy, Senegal.
Finally, once in the industry, women continue to experience significant challenges, particularly regarding finance. Therefore, the seminar explored issues faced by businesswomen and female entrepreneurs regarding the lack of access to capital and funding for women-headed projects. Additionally, speakers suggested ways to remedy these issues.
Oumy Khairy Diop, Director of Strategy and Regulation at the Senegalese Ministry of Petroleum and Energies, debated the issue of quotas for women in the sector. “More than regulation, we need programs. Programs to promote participation. Only then should we see if the regulatory framework needs change. I believe in quotas for women in the industry, but only in tandem with programs that promote female participation in this sector,” she said, while Cany Jobe, Director of Exploration at GNPC, Gambia, underlined the need to tackle profoundly rooted prejudices about the participation of women in the sector.
“There are a number of prejudices that still need to be tackled. I often get told that I don’t look like an engineer, but what does an engineer look like? These stereotypes need to be shattered and not just by men, but by women too,” she concluded.