Woodside reaches 'magic number'

WOODSIDE Petroleum’s executives have gender-specific targets built into their performance contracts, CEO Peter Coleman revealed as a new study of 25% of the global oil and gas workforce showed the sector underperforms other industries in terms of diversity.
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The Boston Consulting Group launched its new study, Untapped Reserves, at the World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul, where Coleman revealed Woodside's policies and rationale on a diversity panel last week.
The report, which included all major international oil companies and some of the major national oil companies, revealed 22% of the global workforce are female compared to an average in other sectors of around 38%.
Dissecting that into career stages, that percentage drops off around mid-career level.
Split between ‘business careers' and ‘technical careers', the study showed that in business they start out almost 50-50, but by the time workers reach senior management female participation has fallen to around 20% female, varying slightly by country.
In technical careers, females account for around 17% of the workforce, and that drops off to 13% by senior management stage. 
"By mid-career we see huge challenges, and none of them have anything to do with choices in your private life," report co-author, BCG's Katharina Rick, told the WPC panel. 
"Challenges we see have more to do with career development opportunities, and they [women] feel they are significantly overlooked."
The study also proved that the drive for diversity within companies truly starts at the top. 
The survey showed that if a CEO is perceived to care about gender diversity, 86% of men also feel it is important but if the CEO is perceived to not care, only about 34% of men consider it important.
Another report issued this month by the University of Western Australia on gender in C-suite executive roles based on the Western Australian ASX 100, in which Woodside sits second behind Wesfarmers, revealed that about 9.5% of those positions are held by women.
There is a stark difference in female representation between the WA ASX 1-50 (11.7%) and WA ASX 51-100 (6.2%).
The WA ASX 1-50 also includes the likes of Tox Free Solutions, Programmed, Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd, RCR Tomlinson and GR Engineering, according to Deloitte's latest figures.
The WA ASX 51-100 includes Sino Gas & Energy, Carnegie Clean Energy, Decmil Group, 88 Energy, MMA Offshore and Carnarvon Petroleum.
Men were described as being over-represented in executive committees in all sectors on the WA ASX 100, with oil and gas having the highest share of companies with all-male executive committees.

Woodside wonder

Woodside is certainly not contributing to that trend, though Coleman said it wasn't always the case.
Today, 30% of Woodside's workforce is women - a percentage Coleman called the "magic number".
He said that result was particularly pleasing given half of Woodside's workforce work remotely on either a two or four-week cycle.
"Once you reach that [percentage] you start getting critical mass where the conversations change, and it's a far more enjoyable place to work," he said.
Coleman said he saw the BCG's results in his own company where women "start making choices" at mid-career.
This was typically two levels below senior executive entry point where women followed the males up to that point, "then making choices of either leaving the company or going into technical roles that allowed them to ‘go along with things'," he said.
"There was a paternalistic attitude within the company that we had to crack the code on," he said, but added "that was the Woodside of five years ago - it's vastly different today". 
"We set ourselves on a diversity program three years ago with very specific goals, which we are blowing out of the water at the moment, because this is the right thing to do.
"When you're doing the right thing the entire organisation goes after it very quickly.
"When you see time and time again that the people getting the opportunities are extremely competent and motivated at what they do, when you break down the barriers of complaints and target and understand the reason, you start to see organisations self-correct."

Tip of the iceberg

Yet the ‘gender issue' was just one of a plethora of complexities a CEO needs to deal with, Coleman said.
"As CEO, we say we have many children in our house that we need to look after, so to speak, so it's not just a gender specific challenge that we have because gender is straight forward to identify the differences," he said.
"As a CEO though you need to deal with many other challenges and differences within the workgroup, like age, nationality, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, physical ability, thinking styles, experience, family background, and the list just goes on and on.
"So you can't just pick one and think that if Venus can talk to Mars and we can communicate in a common way and we're safe then we've cracked the code and now this will work … no, it really doesn't."
Yet as the WA ASX 100 study revealed, it's not just an oil and gas challenge. 
Coleman told the panel that Woodside was headquartered in a "hard-rock mining city, the most remove city in the world", where the percentage of women in the workforce was 15% on average, with only one creche in Perth's central business district.