As part of our Women's Energy Council, we are conducting interviews with our members to find out what their experiences are of working in the energy sector.
We sat down with Sarah Bouzid, Technical Project Coordinator, SONATRACH – Algeria. Here are her thoughts
Do you believe that it is harder to have a career in the energy sector as a woman? Why?
I do believe it is harder, yes. But not because women do not have a good technical and scientific background, it is mainly because of the surrounding atmosphere, I mean the colleagues they are working with. Depending on the country and the culture, people can accept easily working with a woman, or do not even think of it as a problem in the first place whilst somewhere else, women refuse to work in the energy sector because of its hardship, they are afraid to face a male-dominated sector where a man cannot even think of a working woman as something normal, so what about a woman who chooses to make a career in the energy sector.
What do you believe to be the biggest challenge with regards to diversity/equality in the energy industry?
Communication and equal opportunities. I think that it is a big challenge for the leadership in the first place to prepare a healthy working atmosphere where male-female communication can be plain and simple. On equal opportunities, I believe that leadership should think about the personnel based on their skills and competencies, not on their gender. And ladies and gentleman, believe it or not, this still exists in 2018 in some countries.
What obstacle/s did you come across in your career?
As a woman Process Engineer it was difficult to come through the energy sector. I was the youngest, first and the only female process operations engineer at the time I started my career.
Many people around me were astonished and sometimes not even willing to work with me. But you know what? Little by little, they came to understand – I was there to help solve problems not to hide behind the scenes and accept the fate that “I am a woman and I should be weaker than men”. I showed them how a woman can face challenges and help solve problems and that I don’t need to have ten year's work experience to understand basics in engineering and that’s because I have the same abilities, and maybe more, than my male colleagues and I can be as talented as the most talented man.
I also remember when I was promoted to the acting head of the operations department for two months – people there were furious. They didn't want to accept that I, younger than them, and even in some cases their children, could be promoted before them. I faced this every day but in the end, they understood I was not an ordinary team leader because I cared about the security and work organization and could reach our monthly objectives – as any other experimented team leader. And when this came to an end, the same person who refused to work with me because I was younger changed his mind and came to tell me that he now thinks of me as an Engineer and not as a woman whose place is only in the “kitchen”.
What is the most game-changing practice you have come across or heard of that improved equality and diversity in the organization?
A quota system that tries to include more women in the energy sector. After many years, I can tell that this system has worked well but only in making women present in the industry without giving them the same opportunity to be challenged. I have also noticed that this is what makes them lose a part of their motivation as time goes on.
What can men do to help?
Nothing much other than just see women as they see themselves – skilled and talented. Communicate more and destroy the barriers between men and women that are based on some traditional or religious background.
What can women do?
Accept the challenges and always aspire for more. Women who chose to work in the energy sector should not be shy to innovate and we have to take chances to make a change and not just hide behind the scenes.
If you could give one piece of advice to young women who are looking to work in the energy industry, what would it be?
I would only say: believe in yourself young lady and do never let others look down on you.
How many women do you know of who hold similar positions in a similar sub-sector as yourself?
Only four women and I can assure you, they all had the same difficulties.
What do you believe the government can do to empower women and achieve equality in the energy sector (especially in senior positions)?
I believe they should think more about the opportunities for equality between genders because there is nothing better than to hire the right person with the best skills and talents and not based on gender.
How much do you feel the situation for women in energy has changed over the last 10 years?
From a certain point a view and as a jumping-off point, the situation has widely changed, we now see more women working in the energy sector. I am just waiting until there are more women in higher level managerial positions.
What do you do to promote diversity in your career/team/work?
I always encourage young people, especially young ladies, who are about to face a new world to give it there all for their career and accept challenges and widen their curiosity to develop themselves.
About Women's Energy Council
Women’s Energy Council is the most international diversity and equality network for energy executives in the world. It actively promotes and advises on tangible, positive and commercially beneficial changes in the energy industry through bias awareness, policy education and safety at work.
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