The AAPG Women’s Network and the Society for Sedimentary Geology student community co-hosted a panel discussion in October with AAPG Executive Committee officers: President-Elect Gretchen Gillis, Secretary Stephanie Nwoko and Treasurer Denise Stone. Rebecca Caldwell, AAPG Women’s Network technical program director, and Kristina Butler, SEPM student Councilor, engaged these AAPG leaders in a candid conversation about women in the geosciences with topics including the representation of women, women’s experiences and looking forward.
While we addressed many of the audience’s questions during the event, we ran out of time before answering all of the important submitted questions. The panelists decided to share responses with the greater AAPG community through the EXPLORER.
Dealing with Hardship in the Industry
• Question 1: What would you say to mid-career professionals who were caught in the mass layoffs of 2008, 2015 and now, due to the current pandemic, who have had enough of the industry and are considering pivoting?
Stephanie: I would encourage the mid-career professionals to explore broadening their skills and/or acquire an additional degree which can assist transition into different industries such as technology, artificial intelligence, management consulting, investment banking and government establishments, where the geoscience technical skillsets are transferable. Some of the new skills to consider are: data analytics, machine learning, programming packages (Python, R). Some additional degrees which can help change career path and leverage technical skills to be more marketable are PhD, MBA, PMP certification, or MSc (engineering, data analytics, business analytics).
Also, attend training and short courses; there are free courses provided by some professional associations for unemployed professionals or MiT by the Society of Petroleum Engineers/AAPG. Other associations also provide free courses: When I was laid off in 2016, HGS provided free IHS training and it might be worth checking if they still do. Some companies provide free training such as Ikon science, which has the “Geos Between Jobs” program. There are also free or discount registrations for some webinar meetings/conferences. I would urge the mid-career professionals to use the downturn to train and acquire additional skillsets that could prepare them when the industry opens up again.
Attracting the Younger Generation
• Questions 2: How does AAPG intend to drive interest from the younger generation into the industry considering the changing world that we live in re: green mandate etc.?
Stephanie. Young professionals are passionate about the future of energy and about professional associations in alignment with the green mandate and energy transition. AAPG needs to introduce new, innovative and energy-transformation programs and events that the young professionals are interested in. We need to get them heavily involved in chairing committees and panel sessions and give them the liberty to bring in new ideas, which should be implemented. The young professionals have fresh ideas and new ways of doing things and AAPG should be open and receptive to incorporate and encourage such ideas. These are some of the skills they can provide: manage and create content for social media platforms, software apps, IT, and have full control of committee responsibilities.
• Question 3: How have you balanced work and family, because it relates to something that women have to deal with that may impact their ability to move up in an organization? Can women truly have it all? Please share your perspectives.
Gretchen: It was not long ago – in the 1970s – that female teachers in the United States were fired for being pregnant. While women have made considerable progress since then, assumptions about what women should or might do have harmed their careers. These assumptions come from employers and family members: How many spouses or partners assume that a child’s mother will take responsibility for finding childcare and attending medical and school appointments? Many women happily embrace these responsibilities, so the key word is “assumption.” Employers and families need to have conversations rather than making assumptions. Everyone must set priorities, which might include children, parents, pets, volunteer work, self-care (exercise, diet, medical needs), religious devotion, personal projects, professional development and so on. Women have prepared for and committed to all-consuming roles at the highest ranks, as demonstrated by a few CEOs and vice presidents in the energy industry.
For me, raising one child in a dual-career family, I had the luxury of supportive supervisors at a time when most men were expected to not take much time off for family concerns. I limited my business travel – something I do not have to do now that my child is grown. And parental leave has been expanded to include both parents.
As several wise women have observed, women can have it all – it might just not be all at the same time. If you are juggling responsibilities, your job might not be your top priority all the time.
Denise: In the early 1990s I took a family leave from work to care for my father who was fighting terminal cancer. Fortunately, the year before I needed it, my company had put in place a family leave policy. It was an exceedingly difficult time. My job was the center of my life, yet I wanted to be with my dad, seeing to his care and keeping his spirits up. We had the final three months of his life together and got to relive good times and laugh about details of days gone by. All these years later, the leave I took continues to be a time I cherish. My relationship with my dad was everything to me. In life there are situations where you have to do what’s best for yourself and those you love. Having an employer that supports that ideal is a gift.
Diversity and Inclusion
• Question 4: As many companies have gone through a change by promoting diversity and inclusion (e.g., hiring more women), someone might say “she just got the job because she’s a woman.” How should one respond to this comment?
Gretchen: I think the appropriate response to such an offensive comment is, “How did you get your job?” And be ready to follow up with the bullet points from your resume that represent your accomplishments!
• Question 5: How do we motivate men and non-minority folks to “buy-in” on diversity and inclusion initiatives? It can often feel like women or other historically underrepresented minority groups are the people doing all the work.
Denise: The best way to get “buy-in” on anything is to communicate effectively with those whose thinking or behavior you want to influence. Speak out about what you would like to see happen. Tell others the issues, their relevance, and what needs to be done to further the cause. For someone to put forth effort at anything they first need to understand it and see the need. Their next step is feeling compelled to contribute to the effort themselves. Also, people like to be invited into a group as opposed to inviting themselves in. A friendly invitation goes a long way. Find others you think would be a positive addition to the Women’s Network and suggest to them how they might contribute. The AAPG EXPLORER and website are great vehicles for telling the membership at large the mission and current activities of the group. Letting them know what you are trying to accomplish is the key.
See the Panel Online
The full panel discussion and Q&A session can be viewed at AAPG.to/ecwomen2020 If you have any questions, feedback on the event, or are interested in volunteering for AAPGWN, please contact us at [email protected] For more information about AAPGWN and our future events follow us on social media, find us on the AAPG App, or visit us at AAPG.org/womens-network.