The Woman Question
For my thirteenth and final column as SPE president, I saved the subject that I am asked about most often. After every speech, I am asked some form of “the woman question.” What’s it been like to be a woman in the oil and gas industry? How do you manage work/life balance? Are there opportunities for women in our industry? I am the fourth woman SPE president, but it has been 11 years since the last one, making me the only female president of this generation. So, I make a point to be visible to the technical women in our industry and give them my frank perspective on what my journey has been like.
I vividly remember 4 November 1980—as Ronald Reagan was announced as the newly elected US president, I was eating dinner at the old Petroleum Club in Midland, Texas. I was in town for a job interview, and it was the first time I had dinner with a table of executives who were evaluating me. The club was about to move from the old mansion to a modern facility, but the Petroleum Club was still stuck in the past—women were not allowed to join. I had just turned 21, had a month until I graduated with my petroleum engineering degree, and was ready to embark on my long career. I thought that the 1970s women’s rights movement had changed the workplace for all of us and that the “gender wars” were over.
I was wrong.