Women Encouraged to Pursue Oil, Gas Careers

CANFIELD, Ohio -- Nancy Hanlan knew she wasn’t interested in the types of jobs traditionally open to women. Her local community college led her to the civil engineering program, which eventually led to her getting involved with the International Union of Operating Engineers.

That was 35 years ago.

“My parents were less than thrilled but I proved them wrong and they are very proud of me,” she remarked.

Today Hanlan is regional coordinator for the Ohio Operating Engineers apprenticeship and training program in Richfield. She was among several presenters Monday at the Women in Energy Summit held at the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center.

The event, which featured panel discussions and speakers highlighting opportunities in the oil and gas industry for women, was presented by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, whose wife, LeAnn, provided opening remarks. More than 150 individuals registered for the event, organizers said.

“I’ve got an 81-year-old mother, I’ve got two sisters, I’ve got two daughters, I’ve got four granddaughters and I’ve got a wife. I’m surrounded by strong women,” Johnson said, and he wants women to know the jobs being created by the oil and gas industry are available to them. “I want to make sure that women understand that these are not just jobs for men. These are jobs for women.”

Opportunities for women are only going to grow as oil and gas production increases, said Christina Polesovsky, associate director for the American Petroleum Institute in Ohio. Since 2008, crude oil production in the United States has increased 2.5 million barrels per day, about 50%, and natural gas production since 2005 has risen 35%. “These are accomplishments that most energy experts never imagined to be possible in recent years so we’re making huge strides,” she remarked. The United States is poised to surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the largest oil producer by 2015, Polesovsky added.

In Ohio, which is still in the early stages of shale exploration, data released Friday showed 352 producing wells in the state during the fourth quarter of 2013 resulting in 1.4 million barrels of oil and 43 mcf of natural gas, growth from the previous quarter of 8% for gas production and 28% for natural gas. Even at this early stage, Ohio is seeing direct oil and gas jobs increase more than 56% from the second quarter of 2011 to the same period in 2013. Employment opportunities in the industry range from accountants, engineers and sales representatives to administrators and skilled trades.

In 2010, according to a study commissioned by API, the industry directly employed 1.2 million people, of whom 226,000 were female. “Comparatively, females comprise 47% of the overall workforce, which gives us a real opportunity for growth,” Polesovsky said. Of the total jobs, 60% are in the upstream sector of the industry, “many of which are blue collar, but the largest percentage of women are found in the petrochemical and downstream sectors of the industry,” she said.

“By 2030, we can expect to see nearly 1.3 million job opportunities become available for women and minorities,” Polesovsky continued. Of those, females are projected to account for 185,000 jobs in the oil and gas/petrochemical industry. “Education and training are key to attracting greater female workforce participation,” she noted. Among the keys to securing those jobs is improving females’ preparation for disciplines related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as blue-collar professions.

Participating in a panel discussion on engineering careers, Callie Zazzi, engineering manager for the Rockies Permian asset team for EnerVest Operating LLC, Houston, recalled she was recruited to attend Montana Tech at the University of Montana. “They were recruiting women and they offered me a wonderful scholarship there,” she said.

“Nine years into my career, it’s been a wonderful ride,” Zazzi remarked.

Careers in the energy industry are an “excellent opportunity” for young women because they offer an exciting profession, which provides opportunities to explore the earth’s geology; the opportunity to secureenergy independence for the country; and the ability to secure a full-time job with a promising career progression.

Her career also has provided a work-life balance that allows her to spend time with her family including, “most importantly, my 6-month-old son,” Zazzi added.

“The industry is recognizing today that young people are valuing more the work-life balance and we are evolving to meet those needs,” she said.

Donna VanDeman, PSM – process safety manager – coordinator for Utica East Ohio’s Kensington plant, said her company recognizes the importance of getting more women in the. “They’re encouraging women to take an extra step in their education or career choices so we do get a lot of encouragement from our upper management to go as far as you want to go with any career choice you make within our company,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who delivered the keynote address, outlined the economic opportunities the oil and gas industry has brought Ohio. She recalled speaking to a banker in Monroe County who expressed the concern his bank actually had too much money from people bringing in checks from oil and gas leases. Banks need to lend money as well as hold deposits and nobody needs a loan, he told her.

“These are economic opportunities that that particular part of the state hasn’t seen in many years, so I think that’s a positive sign for our state,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our twice-monthly print edition and to our free daily email headlines.