Do We Burst Bubbles, or Will We Bust the Ceiling?

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Some of my friends might say I live in a bubble – and in this particular case, my bubble includes a number of exceptional and dedicated female colleagues with whom I have the pleasure of routinely interacting in business, through the AAPG Executive Committee and throughout the leadership of AAPG.

These women comprise about 40 percent of the high-impact people in my bubble.

The actual numbers at AAPG show that women make up 25 percent of the EC, 15 percent of our EC candidates and 17 percent of the Advisory Council.

By contrast, women make up 40 percent of the global workforce and, depending upon age bracket, are 25-40 percent of the geoscience side of our industry.

AAPG is working to include our female colleagues in many levels of leadership within our organization, but there is still a lot left to do.

So, if AAPG is working toward doing what we say we do, how are we doing as an industry full of AAPG members?

While attending a recent “Exploration Managers” luncheon (something like it probably occurs regularly in your local oil and gas community), I found myself surrounded by a group of about a hundred men and one woman. This rather abruptly popped my bubble and reminded me that there is a larger reality than my little 40-60 world!

Yes, folks, that’s approximately one percent (1 percent)!

Now, at the entry level, I have heard it said that the median geoscientist coming into the industry is a young woman, likely from somewhere around the globe other than the United States. This is what I have observed in my travels throughout North America and our Regions. Women often make up more than 50 percent of the students and young professionals I have had the pleasure of meeting.

This would seem to speak very well indeed for our future – but does it?

How is it that we find ourselves with only a few percent of top management positions occupied by females in our industry, even though women geoscientists have been involved in our industry since before the inception of AAPG nearly 100 years ago?

The question we have to ask within our industry is whether we are facilitating a path to success for all of our employees, or whether we are (either directly or indirectly) inhibiting their path.

In visiting with other middle-aged males (Yup, I am in that age group, too) some offer comments like:

“Unfortunately the biological imperative is that if they want a family, women bear the brunt of having and caring for their children, which takes them out of the workplace at a critical time in their careers.”

In fact, some women do choose to leave the workplace for their families and themselves. Others, however, may decide to remain in the workplace while raising a family. And still others may opt to go “all in” with our industry.

Having navigated that decision, the women I have worked with throughout my career have handled almost any industry management challenge quite well indeed.

But, after making those tough choices, are the women who remain in the workplace fairly represented at the top?

Short answer: NO.

So what are we doing about it in our industry?

By “we” I mean us experienced guys who have it within our capability to invite our female colleagues to Exploration Manager luncheons and other professional gatherings, where they can build their contacts and grow professionally – in other words, provide them the same opportunities we were given when we were younger, by bosses who thought we might grow up to be just like them some day.

Are subtle biases causing us to slot women into roles that create “glass walls,” and keep them from getting the diversity of experience they need to ever be managers?

Are we cloning our potential successors to look like younger versions of us?

Or are we strategically selecting people with different ways of thinking needed to find new oil and gas, regardless of gender, ethnicity, whatever?

Taking down the glass walls ultimately will drop the proverbial “glass ceiling,” and providing the freedom to grow laterally within a company and learn our business is critical to this process.

And, as AAPG members, are we encouraging and nominating our female colleagues to stand as delegates, councilors or officers on behalf of AAPG?

Are we nominating them for AAPG awards?

Are we making room for them by stepping aside, having already had our long turn at the table, and are we then lobbying and voting for them?

These are simple, specific things we can and should do that will make a real difference!

It would seem that it is well past time to share the boardroom equitably with the other half of our population.

This will not happen without our intentional, deliberate choices and actions.

Maybe we can all work together to replace my popped bubble with a reality that reflects the ideals of fairness that underpin AAPG – so, if you have any ideas on how AAPG can be more inclusive, or how we can better do what we say we will do, please feel free to .

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Presidents Column

President's Column - Lee Krystinik
Lee Krystinik, AAPG President (2013-14), is a principal with Fossil Creek Resources, Arlington, Texas.

President's Column

AAPG Presidents offer thoughts and information about their experiences for the Association. 


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