Arab women in Energy sector: Awards, what can be done

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Arab women in Energy sector: Awards, what can be done

Nov 20, 2019

Feminism remains a very confusing term to our day, although the definition you find on google is very straightforward, the implementation is where it gets confusing.

Neglecting the ulterior motive that might have meddled in the process of this implementation, the achievements made are too obvious for any hidden agenda to try and conceal.

Women were denied the right to work in many industries for as long as one can remember. Progress was made and it reminded people all over the world that women -when given the opportunity- can prove everyone who doubted them wrong.

The argument that had the loudest voice was about the difference in the physical abilities between men and women. You know the old “men used to hunt” cliché.

That argument should have been immediately thrown away by the fact that we have female heavyweight champions, but I am sure that no one thought of this brilliant comeback.

One of the fields that some define as “too dangerous for the weaker gender to work in” is the Energy Sector.

The Arab Region as we all know has been dominating the industry that wars were initiated between countries because of it.

The most important, money-making industry in the world is held between the hands of a group of people that their equal-rights-beliefs are still a work in progress.

So it’s safe to say that any woman you know that has gotten to a certain high position in the energy field in the Arab region has had to work at least twice as hard as the men there.

But things are finally changing for the better. Today we have women and men working side to side in the leading energy corporations in the world with the support of our ministers.

Women in Energy Sector

The energy sector has always had a bad reputation due to the lack of gender diversity and it caught the eyes of many unbiased researchers that decided to understand the reason behind that gender gap.

The gender gap exists not only in the workforce but sometimes in STEM education because most of the STEM industries have a bad reputation in diversity, women tend to turn to other fields of education.

STEM refers to “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” education since men make up the majority, some women may be discouraged to enter any of these fields for the sole reason of not being exposed to discrimination.

Women not having access to proper assessment through traditional channels like job fairs and career counseling tend to have more challenges to break through and end up doing everything themselves without the help of others.

But even those who have enough courage and passion to overlook the unfairness in these industries, the constant diminishing of one’s capabilities can be enough reason to quit.

Some research reports discussed that women are more likely to quit their jobs after parental leave, it is common to face a double standard.

Men are welcomed back to work while women have their commitment to work questioned by fellow employees and sometimes supervisors and managers.

Therefore they can experience unfair treatment in case of promotion or workload.

There are other reasons why women are discriminated against in the energy sector other than the obvious reason that is the physicality of the work and the technical part.

But research has shown that women are not offered the proper training for jobs that require physical exhaustion, therefore, they are not offered that jobs because of subjective opinion that they are not ready.

Fortunately, all careers are going through changes due to the advancement in technological factors related to their tasks, the industry is evolving and it’s affecting the perception of those who work in it.

The misperception of the inability of women to work in a physically challenging field and that men are more physically capable than women is slowly fading.

Since technology allowed the operations jobs that required physical effort to be automated with technologically advanced machinery, the argument of being the weaker gender is no longer relevant.

So managers are forced to consider both female and male candidates for such jobs since now the main focus is intellectual skills, knowledge, and education.

LEWAS

oil and gas

The leading awards & symposium for women in the energy sector in the Middle East.

“LEWAS began in 2013 with the objective to Engage, Empower and Elevate women. Since its inception, it has recognized and honored both men and women who are not only making a mark in the Energy industry but are also being an advocate for women empowerment in the GCC.  LEWAS seeks to address the challenges and opportunities for women leaders in the Energy industry. Over the years, LEWAS has gathered women leaders and empowered and motivated women to engage in discussions and panels that address the issue.”

“LEWAS” is an award program dedicated to celebrating the outstanding achievement of women in the energy sector in the middle-east.

The program hands out awards for different categories for professional women in the academic and educational sectors of the industry, with expert judges chosen by the partners.

The event is held under the Patronage of HE Shaikh Mohamed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of Oil, Kingdom of Bahrain, it provides a place to celebrate women’s achievements in the industry, networking, and learning from the expertise of these women.

It is not news that this program is a dream come true for many aspiring young women in the energy sector that their only fear was their work remaining unnoticed.

The change that this program is initiating is revolutionary and one of a kind when you consider the barriers that these women had to break down in order to have any career achievements to begin with.

The fact that their career achievements were not enough and they acknowledged that it’s unfair for women to have to work harder every day of their lives and not be rewarded still and actually do something about it is also revolutionary.

This program set a high tone for what is expected from the women of the middle east in the energy sector and at the same time provided them with a safe haven where they can look for motivation, mentoring, and a sense of belonging and appreciation.

EGYPS

Egypt Petroleum Show is another award program held under the patronage of the president of  The Arab Republic of Egypt himself, Abdelfattah Elsisi.

“The EGYPS Women In Energy Awards is a platform created to celebrate excellence and illustrate, acknowledge and honour female talent in Egypt, North Africa and the Mediterranean energy sector through four Award categories with an unbiased process led by an excellent high-level Jury line-up.”

This program features a Youth engagement program to encourage men and women to join a STEM education with the promise of equal treatment and a bright future.

Women in energy awards

Awards are handed out to exceptional women in the energy sector in various categories; women in leadership positions, the next-generation female of the year, STEM star of the year.

The program holds a “Women in Energy conference” in which they address the problems with the energy industry in Egypt in the area of diversity.

“Focusing on diversity without inclusion is not a winning strategy for any industry or business.”

The conference in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry Of Petroleum and Mineral Resources was able to organize panels where experts got to discuss and set strategies that enable change to happen in this fast-growing industry.

What can be done?

The journey that led to the acknowledgment of the importance of gender diversification in a workplace was long and hard, tears were probably shed in the process. A figure of speech, I hope.

Although not everyone in the Arab region is on board with these changes, at least there are enough respectable high profiles that support the mission.

Implementation is where it gets tricky. Each person has a role to play in order to provide equal opportunities.

Managers’ role

Since the managers’ main concern is achieving goals, it is crucial to strategize these goals in a way that gives both genders the opportunity to participate in the process.

The company’s strategy for achieving financial goals should work in parallel with its goals to achieve diversity roles, which means it might be time to reassign jobs and tasks.

The goal here is not necessarily focusing on the number of men vs women, this is the finished good. The process is the main concern.

A manager has to ask for the help of the Human Resources department to establish strategies that can offer new ways of working together in a respectable environment.

Since there are not nearly enough women in senior positions in the energy sector, some managers might find it appropriate to hire a female senior executive from outside of inside the company in order to get fresh ideas on new leadership styles that can fasten the process.

It can be also encouraging for female employees to witness a woman in a senior position to ensure that they are not denied their right to be treated respectfully or to be considered for promotions.

Another thing to consider as a manager is that women are most likely to quit their jobs in the first five years if they work in a field like the energy field.

So it is important that managers and supervisors monitor closely the morale in the workplace and provide them with a healthy work environment during this period to establish trust.

Government’s role

The government plays a huge role in this process. Setting corporate laws for equal employment rights is an important step in the process accompanied by monitoring the implementation of these laws closely.

The yearly award programs that take place in Bahrain and Egypt to celebrate the achievement of women in the energy sector play a huge role in giving them the recognition they deserve.

Women in STEM education role

Self-perception here is important. Having the grit and determination to ignore all societal norms that conspire against studying and participating in the field you love is crucial.

As a woman, you are expected to try and fail, that enough should be enough reason to chase your dream and ignore any setback that gets in the way of proving others wrong.

It is possible that opportunities will not be presented to you and companies will not go around searching for the next female leader in the energy sector, it is important to make it your job to create these opportunities for yourself.

Summary

The energy sector is challenging yet very rewarding especially in the middle-east.

The diversification of any field in general in the middle-east is still a work in process but the changes that are already happening draw a nice picture of what’s to happen in the future.

Those who started to build the societal perception of women in challenging jobs have fought way too hard for anyone to ignore that change is happening, they made it a matter of when it’ll happen rather than will it happen or not.

The change doesn’t support mediocrity, especially in this fast-growing internet-driven world. Expectations are set very high and it’s our role as women to live up to these fought-for-expectations.

Because simply once given the opportunity it’s just a matter of what you will do with it, the pressure might be overwhelming but it is important to remember to do this for yourself before anyone else.

At the end of the day, it is not a war between genders that women are aiming for, it is more of a reminder that women have rights and it is time to be given back.

It is reassuring to know that the middle-east is for the first time on track and up-to-date with women’s rights and that it won’t take us decades to keep up with what’s happening on the outside.

And for that, we must be thankful for those who contributed to the process and did not remain silent or turned a blind eye to the unfairness that lasted for too long.

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