Women in energy
In 2021, we launched the “Women in Energy” series to promote women’s careers and expertise across the energy sector.
Women are on the frontline of the energy transition. As the oil and gas sector moves towards a sustainable future, IOGP wants to showcase the women who are fundamental to shaping the future of energy.
Meet Maria Spyraki, Member of the European Parliament since June 2014, now serving her second mandate as a member of ITRE and ENVI committees and as co-chair of the Intergroup on Sustainable Development, Biodiversity and Climate Change.
We discuss actions to tackle methane emissions and the related upcoming EU legislation.
Interviewer: Is the oil and gas sector the major contributor for methane emissions in the EU?
Maria Spyraki: There are many sources of methane emissions around the globe, both natural and manmade. In the EU, the energy sector is the third largest contributor of methane emissions (19%) after agriculture (53%) and waste (26%) (European Commission, EU Strategy to reduce methane emissions). Natural gas accounts for around 0.6% of total EU GHG emissions.
I: How is the upstream oil and gas industry tackling methane emissions?
MS: The upstream oil and gas industry is contributing to the reduction of methane emissions along the value chain and across all sectors of the economy. This industry has already undertaken a number of steps to minimize GHG emissions, through various initiatives including methane quantification studies, the Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) standard, the Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programs, and upstream Best Available Techniques.
I: What key aspects need to be considered when developing an effective Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) regulation?
MS: There is a need for flexibility in technologies and methodologies in the context of LDAR, but we need to ensure that we will have an effective LDAR at the end of the day. The companies in the oil and gas sector typically have LDAR programs in place and take leak detection and repair actions on a regular basis for safety reasons as well as part of their methane emissions mitigation efforts. This includes the comprehensive scanning of individual equipment and components to locate leaks and repair them.
I: What should the upcoming EU legislation on methane emissions provide?
MS: The upcoming legislation at the EU level, on methane emissions reduction in the energy sector, should provide an independent and significantly rigorous Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification system (MRV) which will be central to address methane emissions. It is necessary to provide credible data, identify issues and efficient measures, and assess the progress achieved. A mandatory MRV system would also improve Member States’ reporting to the United Nations’ framework convention on climate change. A strong Leak Detection and Repair programme is also a critical element on the EU strategies to reduce methane emissions and achieve the EU climate and environmental goals.
I: How can methane emissions data credibility be improved?
MS: Reconciliation between company reported emissions and independent measurement of methane emissions is quite critical for improved data credibility. The International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) could play a role in reconciling and verifying company reported data using top down/site-level measurements and scientific studies, as well as to develop and execute a consistent standardised approach to detection, measurement, reporting and verification of methane emissions applicable to the gas value chain including production, distribution and use. Increased transparency about major international methane emission sources may effectively support significant methane emission mitigation actions globally.
I: Any message for young women interested in the energy sector?
MS: The energy sector remains one of the least gender diverse sectors, and closing this gender gap would be vital as women are key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. A clean energy transition will require innovative solutions and business models to be adapted, and greater participation from a diverse talent pool. Women are listed less than 11% of patent applications related to the energy sector. Female inventors are rising across different technological sectors, with the highest success reported in the health and chemistry sector. In the patent classes closely associated with the energy sector, women are listed in less than 11% of the applications, and over 15% for climate change mitigation technologies, which is comparable to all technologies, including information and communication technologies. It’s low. Personally, I would like to invite young women to express their interest and get involved in energy affairs, as this sector is of paramount importance. It’s key for the future of our planet. We can do it for the people. We can do it for our families. We can do it for the environment. And we can do it our way.
We e-meet with Iman Hill, recently appointed Executive Director of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP).
Iman describes how her career in engineering started and shares insightful advice for young women.
Interviewer: You spent most of your career as a petroleum engineer. How did you get started in the industry?
Iman Hill: I studied biochemistry at the University of Aberdeen and I became interested in the high-technology content of the industry. So when I graduated, I applied to most of the big companies. At that time, many of the big companies were taking good numerate graduates and turning them into petroleum engineers through a combination of on-the-job training, through the different disciplines of petroleum engineering, and also classroom-based training over a five-year period. So, I became a petroleum engineer, and very much a practical one, because I learnt a lot of what I’ve learnt by doing it on the job.
I: What was your experience as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
IH: When I joined in the middle of the 80s and going offshore, it was a big challenge, because there weren’t many of us – there were less of us than there are today – and we had no role models. We had to prove ourselves many times over to be taken seriously and to be respected, and we definitely had to be very good and consistent in what we did. So was it easy? No, it wasn’t easy. Was it pleasant? Not all of the time. We had to stand up for ourselves and we had to be good at what we did.
I: Do you think that women starting in the industry today still face similar challenges?
IH: I would say that our world is more enlightened, that the generations of today expect and demand equality much more and speak up about it more, and that’s a very good thing. So while I don’t think all of the challenges have gone away, many of them are easier.
I: Where did your interest in engineering come from?
IH: As I started my first job and I started to learn more and more about engineering – the complexity of the problems you get to work on, solving them through sitting down and applying principles of physics and engineering – my love for the subject grew and grew.
I: What would you say to young women interested in studying engineering?
IH: If you are interested in engineering or the STEM subjects, go for it. There’s nothing to stop you, and with an engineering qualification you have so many avenues in the world open to you. If you’ve got the drive, if you have the energy, if you really focus on delivering what you say you’re going to deliver, you’ll be a success and I cannot think of anything more interesting.
I: Any advice for them?
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. One of the magical things about our industry is that we are always striving for inclusivity and for valuing differences. It’d be a mistake to try to act like a man because we’re not men – our femininity and the different ways women approach things like relationships and decision making are part of our strength.
I: Did you look up to any woman in particular?
IH: I am going to be boring but truthful and tell you that I looked up to my mum. My mum was a doctor and she worked in Saudi Arabia, she drove in the 70s because she had to get to her patients and she taught us (four girls and two boys) to not let anybody tell us that you can’t do something, it’s up to you. She really gave us the foundation and the drive and the example of just following your dream, being the best that you can be, and not allowing others to squash your dreams and your hopes.
I: Why is it important to hear about women succeeding in areas where they are usually less represented?
IH: When looking upwards in the organization that I was in, when I saw a woman in a senior position, that gave me the impetus and confidence that with hard work, consistent delivery, and being a good employee, you can get to the highest places possible in the organization, and I truly, truly believe that. I can’t say it enough that in the end it is actually down to us, it’s down to me, you, to the individual, to make sure that they don’t let themselves down and then that they demand from the organization that they’re in or thinking of going into that there is a true pathway for them to grow, to develop, and to reach as high as they would like to.
I: What are your hopes for the Women in Energy series?
IH: I am so excited about it because this is a real opportunity for dialogue, for sharing experiences, for learning from each other. You’ll hear some very, very good stories. You’ll also hear about the challenges that we have but I think that in every work in life there are challenges. I’ll come back to what I said previously, which is: it’s down to us to make it work for us, four our female colleagues as much as for each of us individually. And I think that there’s value in these stories for our male colleagues as well, because I hope that men are listening.
I: Why should young women and men be interested in the Women in Energy series?
IH: They should be interested to learn about the things that we experience. Imagine having the opportunity to travel the world for work, to experience all of the diverse cultures and settings that you can possibly imagine, to work with some of the brightest brains in the world, with the biggest engineering challenges and massive technology implementation opportunities – where else can you get that? So I suggest that they may be interested in these real perspectives. And I think if I just narrow this down to women for now, it also will shine a light on some of the challenges the industry and women in the industry face – and I hope that hearing and learning from these stories can help prepare you for those challenges if you choose to enter this industry.
Meet Guloren Turan, General Manager of Advocacy and Communication at the Global CCS Institute, an international think thank whose mission is to accelerate the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage technology.
Guloren tells us about her experience in the energy sector, and explains how diverse talent pools add value to the development of innovative technologies on our pathway towards climate neutrality.
Interview: What is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?
GT: Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS, is a set of technologies that capture carbon dioxide, either from large stationary emission sources, such as power plants and industrial facilities, or from the atmosphere, and safely store them underground. CCS helps with mitigation of emissions from the existing emission sources as well as removing historic CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s this versatility – it is helpful with both mitigation and removals – that makes CCS such an important part of our climate tool kit.
I: What role do you see CCS playing in the energy transition?
GT: We need CCS to meet our climate targets and get to climate neutrality by 2050. Indeed, this is one of the conclusions of the ground-breaking IPCC 1.5 report which was released a few years ago. The report showed conclusively that it will be extremely challenging, if not impossible, to get to net zero without Carbon Capture and Storage.
I: How are women contributing to this technology?
GT: We have recently launched a “Women in CCUS” network, which you can find on LinkedIn. The skills and knowledge among our female colleagues in this network is immensely diverse and very impressive: we have engineers, geologists, lawyers, it’s the whole spectrum. Women are contributing to CCUS technology across all the elements of the value chain.
I: Why is a diverse talent pool relevant when dealing with innovation?
GT: I think diversity – and when I say diversity I mean in all its forms, not just gender diversity but background, age, and ethnicity – is crucial to encouraging different perspectives which lie at the heart of innovation. Employees with diverse backgrounds bring forward their own perspectives and experiences which lead to innovation, and it helps to create organizations that are more resilient and more effective.
I: What is exciting and fulfilling about working on carbon management technologies such as CCS?
GT: The feeling that we are doing our part in getting to climate neutrality, together with being part of an exciting growing sector, makes it very fulfilling to work in CCS.
I: Do you have any advice for young women interested in working in the energy sector?
GT: I would say just be yourself. I realize that my younger colleagues may be hearing this advice more often now, but in my earlier days, I was sent to training courses on how to increase presence. I clearly remember one occasion where in making a presentation or in a meeting, it was suggested to me that I should try to appear larger and occupy more physical space. I think presence comes from within, not from how you look or how much space you occupy.
I: Did you have any role model at the start of your career?
GT: I did not have a role model, but throughout my career I have had the privilege of working with and alongside tremendous women and leaders who have been truly inspirational. I think that it is important to have role models to aspire too, but I also encourage young women to find their inner voice and their own path.
I: What advice or insight do you wish you had received at the beginning of your career?
When I look back, I think it is important to realize that careers are not necessarily always linear. Sometimes one may need to take a step sideways, or what appears to be sideways, or a step down, and then you maybe take two steps forward. I really encourage my younger colleagues to listen to their hearts as much as they listen to their minds.
Have you ever heard of ‘gender mainstreaming’? What role do women play in the energy transition?
We discussed those topics and much more with Dr Maria Kottari, Research Associate in the Climate Cluster at the School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute.
Interviewer: Hello Maria, thanks for meeting with us today. Please introduce yourself.
Maria Kottari: Hello, my name is Maria Kottari. I was born and raised in Greece, and I have a background in international relations and political studies. I am involved in the energy sector from a policy and decision-making point of view; I completed a PhD that focused on energy politics, and on the European Union’s external relations and energy relations. I worked for the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in the field of research and innovation of low-carbon energy technologies; currently, I am a Research Associate at the School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute and the Climate Cluster. I have also founded a policy consultancy called The Energy Matrix, where I find and design projects that take into account different social aspects – including gender equality and women empowerment – of the energy transition and climate change governance.
I: What is gender mainstreaming?
MK: Gender mainstreaming means considering men’s and women’s different backgrounds and conditions in the decision-making process to design inclusive policies. Gender mainstreaming, at its core, is aimed at solving gender inequalities, so this is a powerful tool to move towards gender equality. Incorporating gender perspectives in different aspects of the decision-making process will make decision-making more effective and successful in order to pursue wider social economic goals.
I: How can gender mainstreaming be applied to climate action?
MK: Gender equality and gender issues are strictly connected and linked to climate change. Climate change affects women and men in a different way and unfortunately, women are more severely affected by the negative impacts of climate change. According to UN data, this is due to the fact that women represent the majority of the world’s poor population and are proportionally more dependent on threatened natural resources. Additionally, compared to the male population, women’s access to arable lands, agricultural activities, financial and technological tools, decision-making processes, training and upskilling is limited and, as such, women are less equipped to adapt to climate change.
Gender mainstreaming plays a crucial role in supporting mitigation and adaptation policies worldwide, particularly in the Global South, where the impacts of climate change are more visible and severe. We need to see the paradox here: although women are mostly affected by climate change, they’re not able to take part in the decision-making process on the actions that should be taken in order to alleviate the negative impacts of climate change. We really need to create an inclusive environment and enable women to acquire the skills to be promoters and enablers of efficient climate actions. Women need to be empowered to be able not only to make decisions, but also to develop sustainable, climate-resilient actions.
I: What role do you envision for women in the energy transition?
MK: The same as men, as long as women have equal opportunities in the decision-making process, equal opportunities to access the job positions they wish, and also be remunerated equally for the work that they’re providing. The energy transition process should start with inclusion, and it requires all hands on deck. Many studies reveal that women in the energy sector bring new perspectives to the workplace and improve collaboration. The role of women as energy consumers is also crucial to achieve the energy transition: women can bring solutions to long-standing energy consumption and production issues, including inequal access to energy services and energy poverty.
I: What does women’s empowerment mean to you?
MK: Empowerment means having agency over your own life, and have equal opportunities to participate in society and the economic system. Women’s empowerment is not an easy process; institutions, public or private, need to create the right environment for women to become empowered. I also consider women’s empowerment as a personal journey, a commitment to dignity, a process of improvement at a personal level, and a legacy for future generations.
I: How can women empower each other?
MK: I believe that the most important thing is to stand together and not to reproduce negative biases that women may have been exposed to during their careers. It is important to reach out to each other, to network, to be open, to hear about the different stories and the different paths.
Networking and peer-to-peer capacity building is really important in empowering each other. In my personal journey, I have empowered myself when I reached out to other women and I listened to their stories. When I met women coming from a different background from myself, I found out that I had no idea of the kind of barriers that they faced until I openly discussed these topics with them. It is also important to share the tools that each one of us uses to develop in our careers. Those tools may be either specific studies or specific behavioural changes.
I: What kind of behavioural changes?
MK: For example, not thinking that our skills and talents are not relevant, even if you are stepping out of your area of expertise. I have been empowered and I broadened my perspective and knowledge of the sector when I started engaging with women from different and diverse background and roles. It is important to be ready, receptive and open to hear about different perspectives.
I: What can be improved in the energy sector, and how?
MK: Gender mainstreaming is important for seeing improvements in the energy sector as a whole, and I think it is the role of public and private institutions to create diverse and inclusive policies, and to make sure women get involved more actively in the energy transition process. This could be met for example by offering more job opportunities to women in the energy sector.
I: What improvements have you noticed since the start of your career?
MK: Undeniably, gender equality and gender issues have become part of the public debate. I have seen the debate shifted towards the need for gender mainstreaming in both the energy transition and climate action. I have also noticed that energy and climate sectors are more inclusive in terms of the professional background of their employees. I am glad to see women advocating more for themselves and acknowledging more the positive effect of networking.
I: Did you have any women role models at the start of your career?
MK: Not really, due to the simple fact that this sector is male dominated. Nonetheless, I have never thought, not even once, that there was no place for me in this sector.
I: Why is it important to reach greater gender equality in the sector?
MK: Women are important change agents in the energy transition. They increasingly play different roles, as energy professionals, as energy decision makers, as energy consumers. An inclusive and successful energy transition comes through gender equality and more engagement of women in the sector.
I: Do you have any advice for women interested in joining the energy sector?
MK: The energy sector is a fascinating, perpetually changing field. It may seem a strictly engineering or technically oriented field, but it is not. Energy stands at the epicentre of socioeconomic processes; energy fuels the economic system and society. A variety of disciplines is relevant to the energy sector. I would urge young women to stay determined for the positive change that they can bring to the energy and climate action sectors, to network with other women, and be open-minded.
Anouk Creusen is Executive Director at 75InQ.
This interview will be published shortly.
This interview will be published shortly.