Spotlight on Women in STEM

Spotlight on


Insights and advice shared by successful women in senior leadership roles within the energy industry.

Launched: 8th March 2024


Since starting my career within the energy industry, I quickly noticed the overwhelming gender inequality when speaking to candidates within the disciplines that I cover. Noticing a trend, I intially wrote a blog on this area but I found myself wanting to investigate that bit more. I approached our Marketing team with an idea for a ‘spotlight’ on this issue, and the content within is the result of our work together. My name is Holly Smith, a consultant in the Drilling, Wells, and HSE Team here at WeConnect Energy. I decided to interview several leading women working in STEM careers, to gain insights into their career journey, and challenges they faces as working women in a traditionally male- dominated industry. The experiences and wisdom shared with me underscore the critical importance of diversity, mentorship, and the willingness to embrace change for both personal growth and industry- wide advancement.

I hope that as my career progresses in the energy recruitment industry that not only is this issue better addressed, but also improvements are made to better support women in the sector. If anything resonates with you, or if you would be interested in discussing your experiences in this industry or want to get involved in WeConnect Energy’s Spotlight on Women in STEM series, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, or send an email to A huge thank you to everyone who took the time out to help make this possible. I really hope that you like this special feature as much as I enjoyed chatting with and learning from the women within it.

Kind Regards,

Holly Smith Holly Smith

Drilling, Wells and HSE Consultant


Melanie Cook Ex-President & CEO - ExxonMobil Indonesia

Female under-representation in the Oil and Gas industry is a deeply endemic problem.”

Since I started my professional STEM career in the late 1990s, the industry has been in catch up mode around representation of women in the Oil and Gas industry, especially in drilling and wells. Some of this has been around attracting women to the sector, and in the early days there was a lack lustre approach in women feeling included - such as the choice of activity and venue for team- building events. Championing diversity has become a quality that matters for senior leaders. I've always challenged the status quo, encouraging hiring managers to embrace differences and questioning leadership when diverse candidates were overlooked. It's crucial for Senior Leadership Teams to mirror the diversity we aspire to achieve within our organisations. Whilst I firmly believe that female leaders have a responsibility to hold the door for other women to walk through, it is as important that male allies sponsor the closing of this gap. I have personally benefitted from female role models who have helped me see what I can be as well as the authentic support and belief that

leaders of all genders have had in me. For example, career opportunities were offered to me when I had a young family and/or was working part time when conventional wisdom might have been 'it's not the right time given her personal situation'. I was grateful for the choice, even if the decision was 'not now'. That's truly what gender equality allyship looks like for me. Now, I try to offer the same to mantra is 'Don't assume, ask!'



Emi Rice-Oxley

Independent Non-Executive Director of Hibiscus Petroleum Bhd and ex-Vice President Exploration, Upstream Petronas

Some people are unaware of the bias they hold, and companies need to have the appropriate support in place to mitigate this.”

My journey in the global energy sector has been one of resilience, leadership, and a constant push against the boundaries of the possible. With 35 years under my belt, I've had the privilege of driving profitable growth and leading transformative initiatives that have not only advanced Petronas' global presence but have also shaped the industry's approach to talent development and inclusivity. Throughout my career, I've shared insights and advice that reflect my commitment to fostering a supportive environment. I firmly believe in the need for support systems that dismantle the

stigma and biases women encounter in our field. Despite never having a formal mentor myself, I've come to appreciate the profound impact mentorship can have. It's crucial for companies to recognise and address unconscious biases,



providing the necessary support to navigate them.

The opportunities are there!". Always seize opportunities with

My experiences have taught me the invaluable lesson of believing in myself, especially after being named the 2019 Female Executive of the Year. I remember doubting my own worthiness, continuously checking the website and wondering: Do I really deserve this? This moment was a turning point, reinforcing the importance of self-confidence and acknowledgment of my achievements.

confidence and determination.

I would also like to stress the importance of networking. I view it not just as a professional tool but as a long-term investment in relationships that can significantly benefit your career down the line.

My advice to others, especially women in our field, is simple yet powerful: "Go for it!

There needs to be the appropriate support in place that allows women to feel safe and take away the stigma in the industry. It is a principle I stand by, ensuring that gender never serves as a barrier to success.



Jeannie Gardner Global Leader Digital & Asset Transformation - KBC, ex-Shell

“There is frequently a double standard in how female and male candidates are evaluated in the hiring process. Women tend to be assessed based on the accomplishments and skills they have already cultivated, whereas men are more commonly evaluated based on their latent potential and promise of future growth. It is a common tendency for those responsible for hiring to gravitate towards candidates that evoke memories of themselves at an earlier stage in their own career progression. The result is that women are passed over for stretch roles or roles that will get them to the next level in their career progression.”

A female subsurface VP (anonymous)

“Networking is key, join local societies and attend free online conferences. Ask the questions you are too scared to ask. Have confidence in yourself and be open to the fact you are always going to be learning.”



In my university class, I was one of the two women in a class of 20 . I then went on to be the only woman on the rig. We need to represent ourselves and what we stand for. Know your stuff, be excellent and competent.

A female VP at an independent upstream oil and gas company (anonymous)



Zaidah Ibrahim Independent Non Executive Director, Hibiscus Petroleum Bhd, Former ExxonMobil Senior Executive In the heart of Malaysia, where acceptance and diversity are woven into the very fabric of the culture, my journey up the corporate ladder has been less about the accolades and more about the personal growth and the legacy I wish to leave behind. that achievement is about leaving behind a legacy of what you’re remembered for. Integrity, caring, and nurturing, rather than just meeting targets or numbers. I've always believed

I often reminded myself that when you are put in a position of discomfort, you need to evaluate whether you really want this. It was a question of perseverance and clarity of purpose, of understanding what I truly aspired to become. In Malaysia, I've seen significant strides in gender equality, especially in leadership positions. At Exxon Malaysia, for example, there's an equal split in leadership roles between genders, a testament to the country's progressive culture. There have been moments along my path filled with discomfort and challenges, prompting me to reflect deeply.

Gender is important, but it’s equally important not to dwell on it.”



When you are put in a position of discomfort, you need to evaluate whether you really want this.”

This balance taught me that gender is important, but it’s equally important not to dwell on it. It's about focusing on the contribution each individual brings to the table. The importance of role models in this journey cannot be overstated. Having someone to look up to, to see what success looks like, has been crucial for me.

It's about having clarity of what you want and what you aspire to become. Clarity of purpose. And through it all, I've learned that it's okay to pivot, to take a career change or explore new avenues. Such decisions aren't admissions of failure but rather a testament to the courage to follow one's true path. After all, if you want it bad enough, you find a way to make it work. This mantra has not only helped me navigate my career but also ensured that the networks I join within the industry are truly beneficial, reinforcing the idea that it’s ok to be selective.

The importance of having a role model is crucial. You need to be able to see what success looks like.”



Valentina Kretzschmar

Vice President, Climate Risk and Strategy Consulting - Wood MacKenzie

I was adamant to succeed on my own as an energy professional, and have, therefore, often been reluctant to engage with mentorship for women in the early stages of my career.”

Reflecting on my 25-year journey in the energy sector, I've witnessed firsthand the challenges and opportunities that come with being a woman in a predominantly male field. Starting as one of only three women in a class of 25 , I've continually found myself in the minority, a testament to the structural issues within the industry regarding gender diversity. It's clear that the Oil and Gas sector hasn't traditionally been attractive to women, and lately, it's struggling to appeal to both genders due to its tarnished image in the face of climate change pressures.

Throughout my career, I've questioned what significant changes have occurred and what actions have been taken to address these longstanding issues. The repetitive conversations over decades highlight a critical need for societal shifts, particularly in encouraging girls to pursue engineering and other STEM fields.



The balance between addressing immediate diversity concerns and implementing long-term educational strategies is crucial. Mentorship emerged as a pivotal aspect of my professional development, although I initially resisted the idea, determined to carve out my success independently. Over time, I've come to recognise the immense value of mentorship, not just for personal growth but as a crucial tool for fostering a more inclusive industry.

in the face of adversity. My advice to those following in my footsteps is simple: "Be brave, be bold and don’t say no to opportunities". This mindset has been instrumental in my journey, pushing me to challenge norms and contribute to the much-needed transition towards cleaner energy solutions. an invaluable resource in any field, and their under-representation is a loss to the sector's innovation and problem- solving capacity. Women, undoubtedly, are Studying mechanical engineering, I was one of 3 women in a class of 25 and have continued to be in the minority throughout my career. What can we say has been changed? What have we done to attract more women to science and engineering? We have been hearing the same thing for the past three decades.”

My journey has taught me the importance of bravery and boldness



Final remarks

The narratives shared by these remarkable women in the energy sector paint a vivid picture of resilience, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of equality. Despite the challenges of operating in a traditionally male-dominated industry, their experiences underscore the critical importance of diversity, mentorship, and the willingness to embrace change for both personal growth and industry-wide advancement. A common thread throughout these stories is the structural challenge of gender diversity within the sector. These women have not only navigated these waters with determination but have also actively sought to reshape the landscape for those who follow. Their journeys highlight the undeniable value of mentorship, both formal and informal, as a catalyst for professional development and empowerment. The significance of mentorship, as recounted, lies not just in career guidance but in fostering a culture that values and uplifts diverse voices. As the industry stands at the crossroads of technological innovation and sustainability, the contributions of women have never been more crucial. As you can hopefully see, this is a topic I am deeply passionate about. I previously mentioned my desire to spotlight this area, and I would love to discuss your experiences in the industry or involve you in our ' Spotlight on Women in STEM ' series. If you're interested, please feel free to connect with me or send an email to

Some Further Resources on Women in STEM:

Women In STEM

STEM Women

STEM Learning

STEM For Her



Connect Today, Transform Tomorrow Thank you for reading this special feature, created by our Drilling & Wells Consultant, Holly Smith. We really appreciate your time and interest, again please do reach out if we can help you with your recruitment requirements.

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