I want to spend most of this column – my final one – addressing some comments I made in a podcast at the end of April. First, I want to acknowledge that the wording of my comments was unfortunate and did not ultimately convey the message I intended. The message they did convey was hurtful and offensive to many, and for that I am deeply sorry. It was never my intent to belittle the contributions of women geologists to our science or to say that women did not belong in the field. I have great love and respect for AAPG and its members, and these comments were my own clumsy comments alone and in no way represent AAPG.
We have started the transition to the new Executive Committee and President Rick Fritz and the incoming Executive Committee have a lot of issues to confront them as we see a major transition of the oil industry. They are most definitely up to the task and I wish them the best. AAPG has made great strides with diversity and are seeing the fruits of those efforts. In the last two seasons of the Distinguished Lecturers program, women comprised 6 of the 11 lecturers (54 percent) compared to 15 of the past 50 (30 percent). It was an honor to serve on the Executive Committee last year under Denise Cox’s leadership, and next year our Executive Committee will be composed of 50-percent women with the possibility for that to be even higher the next year.
Can AAPG do more on the diversity issue? Most certainly. And diversity extends to other areas as well, such as getting more engagement from members under 50 years of age as well as a broader representation geographically. The Advisory Council has been engaged for the last several years reviewing and recommending changes to address diversity within AAPG. AAPG leadership have already had meetings with Terra George and Nicole Wagoner along with others to address issues to further advance the AAPG Women’s Network.
Change happens when people get involved. If you are concerned about governance issues, get involved with the HoD, or if you’re concerned with special interest issues, join a committee. And I encourage everyone to consider running for office. This is one of the hurdles that AAPG faces on diversity: getting people willing to run for office. Here’s a little secret: you can ask someone to nominate you, or just nominate yourself for office!
I would like to clarify my intent on two specific comments. The first is, “This is an industry that is – it’s tough on women just because they in the old days, they had to go out in the field. And I can’t imagine a female geologist going out in the field in places like Argentina, South America, the Middle East and places like that, being out there, miles and miles away from everything; in West Texas driving out to a rig in the middle of the night. There’s a lot of vulnerabilities there, and there’s a lot of stories.”
My intent with this comment was first to acknowledge that our industry has not always been receptive to women, unfortunately. In the late ‘70s, women professionals were not allowed to have lunch in the Petroleum Club in Midland, as well as other petroleum clubs across the country. As business deals are often made at the Petroleum Club, this was a roadblock for women trying to build their careers in the industry, and it’s just one example of many.
The second part of this statement referencing field work was not intended to mean women did not belong in the field. Rather, I intended to highlight the dangers of field work for both men and women, as often you were out in the middle of nowhere with no cell phones (nobody had these yet!), miles from help. When I first went to work for Cities Services in 1978, both male and female geologists were sent to the field, ensuring that everyone’s professional careers had the chance to see the operational side of the business. However, I’ve heard quite a few stories from friends of terrible treatment of women in the field. The WinGS Scholarship (Women in Geoscience Studies) offered by the West Texas Geological Foundation was created while I was serving as chairman to honor a friend of former WTGS President Mary Van Der Loop. This is not the place for the full story, nor is it my story to tell, but her friend was a very good geologist who had a truly terrible experience leaving a wellsite. Stories like hers have stuck with me through the years, and they made me worry for the safety of anyone heading out to a wellsite. Personally, I encountered situations on rigs where no one felt safe, to the point in one instance that I slept in my truck because of the mudlogger.
It is not my place however to tell anyone what is safe for them and what isn’t – everyone makes their own decisions in that regard. Thankfully, our current climate is not that of the ‘70s and ‘80s. We have made field work safer for all involved, and I am grateful for and acknowledge the incredible contributions to our science that women have made through their work in the field.
The second statement I would like to clarify is, “I look at the AAPG. I haven’t noticed in my career and maybe this is blinders on my part, but I hadn’t seen anybody within the AAPG judge people on gender.” I admitted that “maybe this is blinders.” I feel fortunate that, in Midland at least, women professionals have long held leadership roles within our societies. In 1989, Mary Van Der Loop was elected president of the West Texas Geological Society. This was a full ten years before AAPG would elect its first female president. In fact, WTGS had elected five female presidents before AAPG elected their first. I have always been very active in the WTGS, serving on committees and holding several offices, and thus I had the distinct pleasure of working with these highly qualified and distinguished women in Midland.
I often hear the saying, “actions speak louder than words.” I hope in the case of my 40-year career, my actions have spoken louder than a few clumsy words in answer to a question for which I was ill-prepared during a podcast. In 1986, I approached the Permian Basin Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists to do a symposium on discoveries in the Permian Basin. They agreed to it, but I was then put on notice, so to speak, by the SEPM board. They didn’t think that the symposium concept would draw attendance and the publication of the symposium would be the key component. I needed to find an editor. I went to the most qualified person I knew, Brenda Cunningham. I have always chosen to surround myself with the best people for the job, and in this case, Brenda was it. Everything went off without a hitch, thanks in large part to Brenda’s work on the publication. When I was elected president of the Southwest Section, one of my responsibilities included finding a chair for the Annual Convention. Again, I went to the most qualified person for the job, in this case Debra Osborn. In my capacity as a manager at Wagner & Brown LP, vice president of exploration at Reliance Energy, and owner Of Beryl Oil and Gas, when hiring I always looked for the most qualified person. Of the people that I have hired in the geosciences, roughly 40 percent have been women. Outside geosciences, I’ve talked about my love of music here before. Midland started a blues festival about 10 years ago. Beryl Oil and Gas was asked to sponsor, and we chose to sponsor the “Women in Blues,” an evening to showcase great women blues artists trying to make a name for themselves. It’s been a privilege to attend each year and see the talented artists perform.
I’m not asking you to forget my unfortunate comments, but I do hope this has helped to clarify my intentions as well as show you more of who I am as a person. I do not take this lightly, and I hope that my actions have been a better representation of me than those words were. It has been a pleasure serving the membership of AAPG.