Are women breaking the glass ceiling within oil and gas in Middle East?

Middle Eastern (ME) states such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia have long been known as  the world’s leading oil and gas region. To date, the region contributes to at least 55% of petroleum reserves and controls a third of total oil production across the globe.

While the ME is diversifying its economy to reduce its oil-reliance, the sector still contributes a total of 80% of the nation’s revenues on average. Could women be part of this large impact as well?

We had a chat with Nargiza Turdieva and Anna Petrova, Recruitment Consultants from Progressive Recruitment Dubai, who shared their take on having women step up in the oil and gas markets. 


Why are there fewer women in the sector?

  1. Cultural misconception of women’s capabilities

While women make up nearly half the workforce across industries, they only represent a mere 15% of the oil and gas industry. This is also a number that drops further among higher paying technical jobs. Still existent is a cultural misconception that women are unable, or are less interested to handle physical labour such as working in mines or on pipelines. Some still believe women are not as competent in running businesses, negotiating deals, and more.

According to Anna, “due to societal prejudice, it is stereotyped that women lack some of the vital characteristics to execute the role of an oil and gas specialist. Namely, ambition, competitiveness and assertiveness. These features mainly associated with men. Moreover, in order to recruit specialists in the Oil and Gas industry, there should be a solid technical understanding of the role, and a reduction in the proportion of hiring managers perceiving women as less knowledgeable in comparison to men.”

  1. Lack of appeal

The perception of a lack of advancement opportunity for women in oil and gas sends well-qualified candidates looking outside of these industries for employment. Today, the industry needs to be sure that it is providing a culture of inclusion.

While many organisations are emphasizing that energy jobs bring higher salaries to bring in more talents, a good approach is to highlight the values of working in this sector. Studies have shown that women are especially concerned about climate change, and some experts believe having more female leaders in energy could help improve the effort to combat its worst effects. To draw more female applicants for jobs, oil and gas companies could highlight the work they’re doing in new and renewable energies.

  1. Volatility of market outlook

The oil and gas industry is dependent on the volatile price of crude. That’s inevitable. But a big result is that industry leaders get caught up in short-term thinking in general. When you can barely see past the next spike or drop in the markets, you don’t give a lot of thought to where your industry will be in a decade.

Supporting this statement, Nargiza added that “there is definitely a lack of female representation in Oil & Gas within UAE. I have seen an improvement in gender diversity over the years, but there is definitely more than can be done.”

How can women value-add to the space?

There are unique traits that women can bring to the table in the oil and gas scene and below are some of the skillsets that are valuable to roles:

  • Agile multitaskers
  • Greater meticulousness in identifying gaps
  • Greater stability
  • Better risk management


How can women step up to bigger roles in 2020?

Nargiza and Anna shared their key advice to women out there who are looking to break the glass ceiling in oil and gas below.


“It is certainly quite difficult to enter oil and gas market as a woman, let alone be promoted to higher positions. It is quite visible by the current industry representation that the majority of the managerial roles are taken by the male professionals. My advice would be- focus on highlighting your technical expertise and previous achievements as it will manifest the value you can add to the business. It is challenging, however not impossible!



“I do see an increase in women being in more senior roles in UAE. Gender diversification has been an agenda for many companies within oil and gas sector. I would advise women in the workplace to use their uniqueness to their advantage and never be shy to voice their opinion.



Care to share your thoughts on the gender diversity in oil and gas with us?

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