North Sea warned digitalisation 'not a gender balance magic wand'

A network dedicated to increasing the number of women in the UK energy industry has warned that digitalisation is not a guaranteed “gender balance magic wand”.

Aberdeen X-Industry Support Network (AXIS) has condemned a lack of progress on the gender pay gap following a report from Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) earlier this month, while issuing the warning about the digital transition.

OGUK pointed to a recent report from skills body OPITO which highlighted that around 10,000 brand new roles will be needed by 2035 thanks to the rise of new technologies which “could prove to be a positive influence on gender balance”.

However, in a social media post, the AXIS group argued that most women already in the industry, such as those in finance, have jobs which are “particularly vulnerable” to innovations like rise of automation.

Meanwhile, the not-for-profit group said new job families created “may have proportionally more women” but oil and gas will be competing in the “talent war” with other industries that are seen as “more attractive” to female workers.

It added: “If we want more girls to choose STEM careers, the culture of our industry needs to shift to one where women feel confident they will thrive

“Our industry’s shift towards AI and digital transition is not a guaranteed gender balance magic wand.

“We believe that without continued concerted effort, progress towards gender parity in Oil and Gas firms may halt or even reverse.”

The OGUK report showed the average pay gap improved by just 0.1% for member companies between 2017 and 2018.

The average hourly gap  changed from 24.4% in 2017 to 24.3% last year, in line with other STEM sectors such as high-tech, but behind the 17.9% national average.

OGUK’s report said it should not be interpreted as a failure to improve the gap but reflects the reality that it will not be achieved in the short term as it takes time to recruit women and for them to progress in the industry.

It added: “It should be acknowledged that underrepresentation of women in STEM-related roles is not unique to the oil and gas industry; it is a problem for UK plc as a whole and one which employers have been wrestling with for many years.

“The country continues to face the challenge of girls not choosing STEM careers when they perform just as well as boys in STEM subjects.”

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