07 March 2024 Insights

International Women’s Day – Reflections, Challenges & Strategies for Success

As we mark International Women’s Day, our Vice President Charlotte Hope shares her journey as a female leader in the energy sector. From breaking gender norms to discussing our company’s initiatives supporting women, Charlotte explores the evolving roles of women in the industry and offers valuable advice to aspiring female professionals. Join us in acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of women in oil and gas this International Women’s Day.

The Enduring Wisdom: Women Who Shaped My Journey

I am fortunate that there are many remarkable women that have shaped the person I am today. One such figure is my grandmother—an epitome of resilience, courage, and kindness. My grandmother was the OG of putting on your big girl pants and getting the job done. At the tender of 14, she left home to gain work experience on a remote farm. This bold move, especially for someone of her generation, showcased her determination to carve her path. As a child, I watched in awe as she worked tirelessly, displaying a unique blend of grit and determination. Despite the challenges of farming, there was always a twinkle in her eye—a silent reminder to approach life with both seriousness and a sense of humour. When faced with a dilemma, I often ask myself, ‘What would GGW do?’ The answer is usually: take a breath, prioritise tasks, and never succumb to the notion that you aren’t good enough or capable. However, her influence goes beyond tackling challenges. She imparted invaluable lessons in treating people with kindness and respect. This principle has been particularly impactful in my professional life, especially when working internationally. Understanding each other’s perspectives may be challenging in an environment where diverse cultures converge, but her wisdom resonates—never let the differences deter you from being kind and respectful.  Her teachings echo my daily life, reminding me that kindness transcends boundaries and respect is a universal language. As I navigate life, I carry with me the enduring lessons from a woman who faced adversity with grace and met challenges with unwavering strength.

Navigating Gender Norms in the Oil and Gas Industry

Growing up with a father immersed in the oil and gas industry, it felt almost natural for me to follow in his footsteps. Encouraged to break free from traditional roles, I kicked off my career in Accountancy—a field that has historically seen a more balanced gender presence. However, as my roles transitioned into more commercial and operational areas, especially while working in Africa, I faced my fair share of challenges. Despite holding senior positions, assumptions about my role persisted, highlighting the prevailing gender biases in the industry. During client meetings, people would often assume I was there as a note-taker.  While strides have been made in breaking down predefined gender roles, cultural nuances and stereotypes still present hurdles. I reflect on my journey, acknowledging the progress made while recognising that gender biases continue to influence perceptions of leadership qualities.

Unique Perspectives and Challenges

As a female leader, I’ve learned to leverage my emotional intuition to understand and motivate my team. However, the road is not without its challenges—gender biases often cast leadership qualities in a different light depending on one’s gender. What may be viewed as strength and assertiveness in a male leader is often labelled as aggressiveness or coldness in a female counterpart. Despite these obstacles, my unique perspective as a woman has equipped me with an understanding of women’s diverse responsibilities outside the workplace, emphasising the significance of achieving a healthy work-life balance.

Company Initiatives for Inclusivity: Our Commitment

At IK Trax, fostering inclusivity is a top priority. Initiatives supporting women include phased returns and part-time positions for those returning after maternity leave, coupled with flexible working hours accommodating childcare responsibilities. When I initially entered the industry, we faced a significant challenge of retaining highly skilled women after their maternity leave. Many struggled to balance childcare responsibilities and their careers. As their children got older, re-entering the job market became increasingly challenging due to the gap in their CV caused by their time away from work. We are committed to dismantling barriers hindering women’s progress and actively addressing overlooked issues, such as the impact of menopause on the workplace. This issue has long been overlooked but is finally gaining the attention it deserves.

The Strategic Move: Women’s Impact in the Industry

Promoting women’s involvement in the energy sector is a strategic move beyond morality. The diverse skill sets and perspectives women bring contribute significantly to innovation, problem-solving, and creativity and enable us to better understand and meet the needs of a diverse client base. While progress is visible in the representation of women in senior positions, mandated reporting sheds light on the persistent issue of inequality. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to note a positive shift in the makeup of management at IK Trax and the IK Group, with two of the current Group VPs being female. At IK Trax, we also have women in managerial and technical roles, including our Workshop Supervisor.

Navigating the Path Ahead: My Advice

To aspiring women embarking on a career in the oil and gas industry, my advice is simple: seize every opportunity, believe in yourself, and don’t settle. It’s easy to underestimate your capabilities but believe me, you have the potential to achieve great things. In a world where negotiation styles often differ between genders, be assertive about what you bring to the table. Aim high and never settle for less than you deserve.  Speak up, and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas. If you see an opportunity for mentorship, latch onto it. Mentorship is akin to free career development, offering guidance and support as you navigate the complexities of your profession. I am a firm believer in getting the best out of everyone; let’s continue to support and uplift women, helping them fulfil their potential.  In my journey, I’ve found that women sometimes downplay their achievements. You are not just lucky to be in your position; you earned it. Have confidence in your skills, and remember that you can always learn and grow, even if there are gaps in your expertise. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s champion each other and recognise the achievements of women in our industry.