The 8th Global Women Petroleum & Energy Club Luncheon is creating more opportunities to discuss the need to bring more women into the blossoming Africa oil and gas industry.
Experts have expressed the confidence that the forum will continue to be a positive event that makes great strides towards empowering women in the oil and gas industry to reach out, be mentors and be the change they want to see at every level.
The statistics are sobering when it comes to women studying and taking up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
According to South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training Government Gazette of 2014, eight out of the top 10 occupations where there is a skills shortage in the country are STEM-related.
Globally, just 14 percent of the STEM workforce is female and this drops to just seven per cent in South Africa.
In Ghana, according to the Ghana Education Trust Fund, 221 men received scholarships to study oil, gas and energy-related courses between 2010 and 2015, compared with just 49 women.
In Nigeria, for example, while women only make up 17 percent of all scientific researchers, there are some excellent role models gaining prominence.
After all, you cannot be what you cannot see and visibility of leading women in the oil and gas industry is essential if the current generation of school and university students is to be motivated.
For girls and women keen to work in the oil and gas industry, Professor Deborah Enilo Ajakiye is an inspiration. With a PhD in geophysics from Ahmadu Bello University, she has been working with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on its exploration projects for alternative crude oil reserves in the country’s inland sedimentary basins.
More needs to be done to encourage women to enter the oil and gas industry across Africa. This needs to start at school and it is essential that across the continent, girls have the same opportunities as boys to attend school and the same encouragement to study STEM subjects.
Interest and aptitude in STEM subjects among girls need to be fostered and the prospect of studying in fields such as engineering and geology at the university level has to be seen as a real possibility.
Development of the oil and gas industry for the generation of electricity will play an essential role in ensuring girls get the education they need.
When families have access to electricity, lives become easier, girls do not end up missing out on school to help gather fuel for their homes, there is light by which to study, and the chances of girls reaching their full potential as women increase enormously.