The energy sector has predominantly had more males than females in senior roles. This is a global phenomenon and is not unique to Trinidad and Tobago. The International Energy Association (IEA) stated in an article in 2018 that the energy sector remains one of the least gender-diverse sectors, despite recent efforts to promote and encourage women’s participation. The IEA article alludes to inclusion of all human resources for key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. 

According to the Trinidad and Tobago Central Statistical Office (CSO), women make up approximately 41 per cent of the national workforce. However, in the energy sector (petroleum and gas sector, including production, refining and service contractors), women accounted for less than 20 per cent of that segment in the workforce in 2017. 

This is typical for this industry, but there are signs that things are changing. When we look at university enrollment data over the last five years from the Engineering Faculty at The University of the West Indies, females make up 30 per cent of undergraduate admissions. For post-graduate programmes, however, the engineering faculty has seen on average 44 per cent enrollment by females.

At our Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference (Energy Conference), the speakers have typically been male, with female speakers accounting for only about 10 per cent on average over the last five years. However, in 2019, there are 20 per cent female speakers. And at our new event, the Clean Energy Conference, women speakers have had 28 per cent participation in 2018. The staff at the Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago (Energy Chamber) is also 86 per cent female. 

According to the IEA, the inclusion of women ‘is especially important given the role that women can often play as key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. As such, gender diversity and the broad participation of women in the energy sector are needed for a successful clean energy transition’. This is also part of the reason why the Clean Energy Conference attracts more female executives as speakers. 

Dr. Carla Noel-Mendez, Corporate Affairs Manager, BHP, said, ‘The world is more open than ever to the concept of change, partially because there is so much of it happening. However, there are critical business benefits to simply hiring and promoting the best person, the best fit for any job’. 

BHP has an aggressive and ambitious global inclusion and diversity programme with the aim of achieving gender balance across the company by 2025. 

According to Dr. Noel-Mendez, (in Trinidad), ‘We continue apace to implement the systems which will ensure equity in all of our human resource practices. This is a relentless and daily pursuit throughout the business’. When asked what she thought were the main challenges observed, she replied, ‘Once people are on board as to why harnessing the best talent is best for business, then 95 per cent of the battle has been won. Find a way to ensure that everyone has that same vision — this is our continuous mission’. 

She added some advice for young women entering the sector: ‘Go for it! Be persistent, show your quality professional talents and do not be daunted by any efforts to undermine what you can deliver. Let your results at work speak volumes about you’. Dr Noel-Mendez added that she is pleased to see that the Energy Chamber has initiated actions towards dialogue and action on the issue of what she would call, ‘ensuring that all talent in the energy sector is harnessed’.