Retention of ‘GeoWomen’ a Concern

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Leading industry employers tell AAPG that although they recruit and hire the best geoscientists – and often at least half are women – they have problems retaining women geoscientists.

At the end of June AAPG had 4,317 women members worldwide (all membership classes), or 14 percent of the total AAPG membership of 30,186.

The mission of AAPG’s Professional Women in Earth Sciences Committee is to increase participation and advancement of women in Earth Science and industry, with emphasis on retention, education, outreach, support and leadership development. It fulfills its mission through interaction with women in geosciences, their employers, educational institutions and professional societies.

Among the committee’s priority goals for 2008-09 is to gather data and identify issues impacting the retention of women geoscientists in the energy industry work force. The desired outcome of this survey is to inform AAPG’s role and future actions toward improving the workplace climate for women geoscientists.

While the percentage of women AAPG members has increased gradually from 8 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 2008, the percentage of master’s degrees in earth sciences awarded to women by U.S. educational institutions has increased 66 percent over the 10-year period from 1996 to 2005.*

Despite the large percentage of women in graduating classes, along with industry recruiting efforts, women geoscientists are walking out the door:

  • Some earn geosciences degrees and never enter the industry.
  • Some start careers, then leave the industry and never come back.
  • Some leave for a time and then resume their industry careers.
  • Some stayed in the industry for a long time, but then saw the need for numerous workplace improvements to better support families.
Family-Friendly Employers

Examples of industry employers who seem to “get it” do exist.

In fact, beginning here and in future EXPLORER issues, we will periodically feature companies whose employment policies and workplace environment can be described as “family friendly,” supporting not only women geoscientists, but also their partners in dual-career households.

BP Exploration is one such family-friendly employer. The company offers great support for working parents: daycare facilities, nursing rooms, flexibility in working hours and a “working parents network.”

“The benefits in support of our family have been amazing,” said Cindy Yeilding, BP exploration manager and a previous AAPG Distinguished Lecturer.

“My husband actually came to BP after many years with another company because of the on-site daycare facility at BP,” she said. “It was a significant factor in a major career move for him.”

Target Audience for Survey

AAPG’s work force retention survey targets degreed women geoscientists of all ages and at every stage of their careers.

Specifically, the survey aims to reach four groups:

  • Former employees who left the industry.
  • Industry employees who left, then returned after a time.
  • Women geoscientists currently employed in the industry, academia or government, but with opinions on improving the workplace climate for women and families.
  • Women with a geosciences degree who were never employed in the industry.

The survey also will capture current workplace “best practices” that are supportive of working women and contribute to employee satisfaction.

Survey Invitation

All AAPG Active and Affiliate members will receive an e-mail invitation from AAPG to participate in the survey. The e-mail will contain survey instructions and a Web link to the survey form.

The survey also will be found on the AAPG Web site.

To ensure a broad work force sampling, all AAPG members are requested to forward the survey invitation e-mail to co-workers, spouses, daughters, women friends and university alumni with geosciences degrees.

The survey will remain open through Sept. 30, and results will be published in a future EXPLORER and on the AAPG Web site.  

*Source: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, special tabulations of U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Completions Survey, 1996-2005.

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