Diversity and inclusion is a winning formula - Lisa Byars

It could be argued it is long overdue, but the oil and gas industry is more engaged than ever in addressing diversity and inclusion (D&I) parity within the sector.

Lisa Byars, Senior Associate in Pinsent Masons’ Employment Energy Team
Lisa Byars, Senior Associate in Pinsent Masons’ Employment Energy Team

A recent Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) survey will hasten progress by establishing a baseline for the UK industry and an index by which to measure and improve performance and drive forward change.

The creation of a UKCS D&I Index - which comprises the average D&I score from around 50 core questions - provides a clear indication of where the sector currently stands in key D&I areas, including belonging, openness, respect, career, opportunities, organisation, culture, leadership, impact and flexibility.

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Gathering data within individual businesses is vital in advancing D&I issues otherwise it is impossible to obtain a true picture of where the business is positioned, goals can’t be set, and progress can’t be measured.

The sun is starting to set on the fossil fuels industry amid the shift to greener energy sources.

Employee “buy-in” is important for data gathering and for that a clear communication plan is required. Making clear why data is being gathered and its importance to the business helps in overcoming participation barriers.

Potential blockers to participation could include general suspicions at the motives, employees having a “lack of time” to complete the survey, and the mindset that if it doesn’t directly impact on staff, why should they support the exercise?

With a significantly large percentage of the workforce offshore and miles away from the office/desk environment, this can present additional challenges, as evidenced in the OGUK report which showed the D&I index for offshore workers was lower than those working onshore.

Influencers or ambassadors can be appointed to help with offshore buy-in by explaining to reluctant peers why data gathering is important. Also internal D&I groups, and connections with similar networks, will help drive up response rates both onshore and offshore.

Cultural change in an organisation starts at the top and the C-suite should be as engaged as those tasked with driving the D&I agenda (in fact, they should be driving it). This demonstrates to employees, prospective employees, clients and customers, that D&I is being taken seriously.

The OGUK report made reference to evidence which demonstrates that diverse and inclusive businesses are more competitive and profitable. Also customers who place a high value on D&I will want to do business with like-minded people, and will prefer to have the best and most diverse talent working on their behalf.

There is a real risk of losing talented people because they don’t see D&I highly ranked in oil and gas businesses. If these future sector leaders don’t feel their values are well represented, or don’t see themselves reflected in leadership positions within the industry, they will look elsewhere for a position which fits better with their ideals.

D&I, or a lack of it, can also impact on the sector’s energy transition ambitions as many companies aim for a net zero carbon end-point. If the best talent and most innovate thinkers gravitate towards more D&I friendly sectors, it will take longer to reach a net zero carbon landscape.

Lisa Byars, Senior Associate in Pinsent Masons’ Employment Energy Team

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