The Women In Energy Network (WIEN) is a dynamic and influential organisation dedicated to advancing the role of women in the energy sector. WIEN was founded in 2020 with the goal of promoting gender diversity and empowering female professionals in the energy industry.
The President of WIEN, Mrs. Eyono Fatayi-Williams, erstwhile General Manager, External Relations of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), said the association promotes gender equity and provides scholarship with assistance to girls.
This is done through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) also known as Supernova. It’s about the girl child.
Fatayi-Williams spoke to energy correspondents at WIEN’s Dinner and Awards Night, including induction of new members held recently in Lagos.
Congratulations on your second dinner awards, looking at the oil and gas sector, the issue of gender inequality, it’s a big deal even though various organisations that are promoting issues around gender inequality and trying to put together favourable modalities. Can you tell us some of the strides WIEN has recorded in this regard?
I think one of the first things we’ve done is to plug into the global discourse on gender inequality, the need for gender diversity inclusivity when it comes to gender issues. What we have started with is to go to companies to say we want to reinforce what you’re doing; a lot of them are already on the journey. We want to support them to measure their progress and successes.
Also for us, what we have realized is that the pool from which you get women is not large. So, we have started from the cradle. We have STEM initiative, which is called Supernova. What it does is to provide scholarships for girls in STEM who are going to be in the sciences. In terms of gender within the oil and gas industry, there is diversity and inclusion partner for the Nigerian Gas Association to promote gender inclusivity in the different organisations that are part of NGA and we are doing the same thing for all our corporate sponsors. It’s about creating awareness and demonstration based on proven research that when you have a diverse leadership, profitability is enhanced in those companies and several reports have shown that this is a reality.
What is WIEN doing in terms of encouraging the girl child in the area of STEM? Is WIEN doing anything to nurture young girls to be engineers in various fields?
In this regard, what I mentioned earlier, the Supernova project and it’s about girls in STEM. It’s an initiative that we want to greatly enhance and expand and we’ve been chatting with different corporate organisations to encourage them to endorse this initiative so that we have a wider pool of girls who are on scholarships. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be in school. We’re also looking at creating science and Mathematics clubs in primary schools to encourage interests. Science clubs in secondary schools to encourage interest and to demonstrate that there is support for women who go into the field. We are also chatting with young engineers and the discussion we had is that you got to make the workspace inclusive so that it will be easy for women to thrive in the industry.
Where people are working offshore, there should be facilities, not just for men, but for women as well. Where there are factories in the operation section, you should have a changing room. We are keeping that discussion alive. The oil and gas companies in the energy value chain need to have inclusion and the gender discussion is still ongoing. Even the CEO of Walter Smith emphasised on it.
What are you doing in terms of strategy to train and retrain your members in this energy transition period to keep them abreast of trends in the industry?
We’re very proud of the fact that we have clocked over 2000 hours of active learning. We do webinars, master class sessions and encourage our women to attend various conferences. In these conferences we seek for speaking opportunities for women because they bring value to the table. So, when they are speaking on technical and non-technical subjects, the issue of advocacy, climate change, energy transition discourse, we have women that are encouraged and equipped to speak on these topics.
WIEN creates awareness of conferences and events that go on globally. We have a global calendar, and tries to create awareness and make sure that women know about these things, work with them to ensure that they seek opportunities. We are very proud to say that if you are looking for talented, well knowledgeable women to speak on any subject across the energy value chain, you will find them in WIEN.
Some people believe that certain technical positions; especially in politics are better handled by men than women. When people see women in certain positions, they frowned that they will fail. What is your response to this?
Before I respond to that, I worked at the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting (NSPM) Company in the 80s. I was one of the first women to go into the factory and I was the head of a group called security documents when we started the encoding of bankers’ cheques.
The first day I resumed in the office, I was taking to the CEO’s office to be introduced to him. When I walked in, he responded in amazement that he wasn’t expecting a woman. This bias had been as old as the world exists. Automatically, there are certain jobs we create in our minds and we as women think that these jobs are for men while others are for women.
In our homes, we unconsciously call our daughters into the kitchen and the boys are asked to wash the cars. This unconscious bias exists.
But what we have seen recently, for instance, the Managing Director (MD) of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) is a woman and she is doing a great job. We’ve seen women who have set the trail and done well.
Folorunso Alakija is heading an upstream company and she’s doing extremely well. There are other several women who are in technical fields. This is a bias that has existed for many years in the world. But what we are saying is that for every woman that does her job well, she is successful and helps to enforce the truth that any job can be done by anybody, whether male or female. Gender shouldn’t matter.
What is happening now is that we equip our women and when they involve in certain technical roles, maybe an offshore job. If a woman’s biological cycle comes in or having a baby, is a normal occurrence of nature. She gives birth to a baby and life goes on. We are happy with organisations that recognise this fact and make sure that those times in the life of a woman are normal. They are given other roles that are still technical maybe not in the field. When they are through they continue with their jobs. Gender should not be a career limiting factor. It shouldn’t be and it did not limit my career and shouldn’t limit others career.
Some women heading the oil and gas industry do not have technical acumen. What’s your take on this?
You don’t need to be technical to head a technical upstream company. One of the most successful General Manager (GM) productions we had in NLNG was a Physicist, but it’s to understand what is required. She is in a leadership position and understands the results that she has and what it takes to run an upstream company. That’s why she is successful and it is not a fluke. Something has been done right. She’s been able to sit on the table with men and have discussions, strike agreements that are necessary for her business to succeed. I think you must give her credit.
For your team, what’s the key focus of administration, knowing fully that your predecessor pushed for advocacy and what’s your target in the next two years?
In the next two years, we will be focusing on several things and still keep the advocacy journey. Recent board appointments have not reflected the 35% which Mr. President has so graciously committed to. We will keep reminding him that he made a commitment in the renewed hope agenda that there will be 25% of women. It is an important discussion.
We want to focus on creating more opportunities for women to rise up in the ladder and strengthen those who are already in leadership. We will create those opportunities by making sure that we support women where there are opportunities for them to go in and do something, compete and showcase themselves. They will be supported to build capacity.
Women who go out to compete based on what they bring to the table not because they want to take up the box but strive to work hard. When you say 35% we want to ensure they can stand to be counted and bring value to the table. We will expose and bring women together making sure they have access to opportunities that are available.