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Time for women to break glass ceiling, Adipec hears

Time for women to break glass ceiling, Adipec hears
Reem Al Alawi, general counsel, Tatweer Petroleum; Julie Beck, chief financial officer, Nova Chemicals; Zuhaida Zulfiki, startegic relations, Malaysia Petroleum; and Olga Milhaylova, head of communications, Lukoil ME Limited. - Photo by Ryan Lim

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Thu 16 Nov 2017, 8:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 Nov 2017, 10:26 PM

The four-day Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference closed with women delegates trying to break the 'glass ceiling' in the energy industry.
In the opening address of Women in Energy on Thursday, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington president ambassador Marcelle M Wahba quoted Hillary Clinton and said: "Glass ceiling is still an obstacle for too many women but it is very badly cracked."
Marcelle said it was time for woman to step into more unconventional roles.
"A certain woman, who nearly became the US president once said: light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time," Marcelle signed off.
Meanwhile, Intisaar Kindy, exploration director, Petroleum Development Oman, said she was mentored from Day One and had women pulling her hand up.
"We are trying to pull as much we can but there is not much pool to pull from," she pointed out.
Intisaar noted there is an enormous gap between middle and higher management.
"Some 20 years ago just a mere presence of woman in our companies, in most of our energy industry, was an odd one. We have come a long way and the numbers are increasing. What is lacking is the belief that a woman can also lead. As soon as we talk about leadership in technical fields, the hesitation is enormous and there are many reasons as to why a woman can't take that position."
Intisaar said men should judge woman on merit, credibility, emotional intelligence, networking experience and ability to build bridges.
"In the Middle East, we were told to be quiet but we are not going to change our traits to match the men. We need not necessarily be loud to be heard and this is something I am fighting at the executive level."
She said woman needs to be judged based on logic.
"Test her, give her the safety net. Unless the risk taking is there, we will stay where we are right now. I am pushing this agenda and we are getting there." She narrated having a tough time taking 18 women engineers to field and gain acceptance.
Meanwhile, Maria Claudia Borras, president and CEO, oilfield services at Baker Hughes, a GE Company, said to have good support from male colleagues to reach this far. "I was the only woman on the field. I was scared about the challenge but the role changed my career. "
She noted there needs to be mutual respect between men and woman.
Maria said woman need to be flexible in personal and professional life to strike a balance in life.
"There are not many women in technical areas and it remains a challenge. Men need to believe us that we can lead. Industry is changing but I want to see more speed," she added. Tatweer Petroleum general counsel Reem Al Alawi said there are many improvements seen in oil and gas industry. "We need to find a mentor and learn from experiences. Try not to be boxed and be yourself," she added.  
Lukoil Mid East Limited head of communications Olga Mikhaylova recollected how she was denied job as she was a mother of three children.
"In the interview everything was good until I told about my kids. I failed and was crying but then I found a better job with a better boss. Even if you fail, you have to keep going," she said noting that it was important to have two important men in life - husband and boss.
Nova Chemicals chief financial officer Julie Beck said the women should take any challenge offered.
"When you are given a cross-functional assignment, take it and don't say no. Take that chance and if you say no, they won't ask you again."
Zuhaida Zulkifli, head of commercial and strategic relations for Malaysia Petroleum Management, Petronas, said woman should always be ready for any assigned role in any given work environment.
"Just because you are non-technical doesn't mean that you cannot do any other thing. The boxes aren't there and lines can be blurred. We should be changing this 'Women in Energy' to 'Women is Energy'," she added.
"In many cases, people don't intend to be biased. However, there is an unconscious bias, which is a result of maybe the culture we are brought up with," Zuhaida added. - ashwani@khaleejtimes.com

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