SPE logo

SPE Breaking the Cycle of Discrimination— Another Perspective on Workplace Challenges in the Oil and Gas Industry

1 – 2 October 2014

Aberdeen, United Kingdom | Norwood Hall Hotel

About this Workshop


The oil and gas industry is currently facing real social workplace challenges which “Breaking the Cycle of Discrimination— Another Perspective on Workplace Challenges in the Oil and Gas Industry” is aiming to debate and address, ultimately identifying potential solutions to making the industry a more inclusive workplace.

Since the turn of the 21st century, the oil industry worldwide is facing a new set of challenges. In a race against time for the discovery of new energy resources, the oil and gas industry has become truly global. There are now very few large operators or service companies operating solely in one region of the world, let alone one country. In a time when companies need to strive for structural renewal and become “globally integrated enterprises”, talent within the industry needs to be recognised and promoted regardless of location, cultural/religious identity or gender. In turn, professionals operating within the industry are now expected to be globally-minded when conceiving new ideas, strategies and operations.

Global management skills are largely based on developing cultural intelligence or a high cultural quotient (CQ), which delineates an individual's general understanding and adaptability to foreign cultures. Managers of global corporations are faced with substantial opportunities for growth alongside significant threats in cultural differences.

Additionally, where skills shortages are a real issue and sustained efforts to recruit young professionals are in place, evidence indicates that older adults often face discrimination in the workplace based on age related stereotypes. Many of these stereotypes may not be accurate or recognise the benefits of employing older workers, although they may influence the recruitment and retention of older individuals. The term ‘older’ refers to individuals of varying ages, research suggests that older workers could be those older than either 40 or 50 years of age. However, the term “older” can also be used to refer to any individual perceived to be different to their colleagues and peers in terms of increased age and this can be as low as workers over the age of 30.

In the oil industry, sexism has almost always been identified as a status-quo, primarily in certain regions of the world, where it is not the norm for a woman to have a leading or technical competence based role. Most cases encountered are those of an ambivalent or benevolent sexism, referring to attitudes that view women and men in stereotypical roles, but feel “positive” or even complimentary in nature. Ambivalent or benevolent sexism usually originates in an idealisation of traditional gender roles i.e. women are “naturally” more kind, emotional and compassionate, whilst men are “naturally” more rational, less emotional and “tougher,” mentally and physically. Translated into the workplace, ambivalent or benevolent sexism encourages assumptions that women are naturally better administrative assistants or naturally prepared to organise corporate events.

Is it in every individual’s power to break this cycle of discrimination? Is there any real support towards a deeper understanding of human values and differences? Can projects actually be successfully delivered by multi-cultural and gender diverse teams? Are the change management initiatives considering the social and cultural bias? Does the oil and gas industry actually speak a diverse language?


A career in the oil industry, irrespective of how far along you wish to go or how far you already are, is extremely challenging. New developments are constantly emerging and the oil industry is a worldwide leader in terms of technical innovation.

However, there is another challenge that each of you face or faced along the path of your own professional development. A challenge for which there are seldom written rules or academic references – and that is the human interaction and the engagement process that need to be carried out and carefully fostered between employers, employees, colleagues and contractor personnel.

This important industry event will explore questions such as:

  • What really matters in a workplace?
  • How do people relate to you and vice-versa?
  • How can attitudes be considered normal in a certain set of circumstances but abnormal in another?
  • Why technical competence should be free of any type of social bias
  • How can your ability to become a genuine leader improve?
  • How important are team dynamics?
  • How do prejudice and misconception overpower even the most composed of individuals
  • How do your own values and social mind-set negatively or positively influence your decision making process?

Workshop Guidelines

Workshops maximise the exchange of ideas among attendees and presenters through brief technical presentations followed by extended Q&A periods. Focused topics attract an informed audience eager to discuss issues critical to advancing both technology and best practices.

Many of the presentations are in the form of case studies, highlighting engineering achievements and lessons learned. In order to stimulate frank discussion, no proceedings are published and members of the press are not invited to attend.