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Exclusive Article

Make your voice heard - Untapped Reserves 2.0

04/09/2021 | 10h18
Make your voice heard - Untapped Reserves 2.0
Ulrike von Lonski Ulrike von Lonski

Despite some improvement, women are still seriously underrepresented in the global oil and gas industry. While the number of women on oil and gas company boards has increased by 22% since 2017, women still only account for 17% of the actual board members. Although the increase is roughly in line with developments in comparable industries like mining, utilities, and construction, female board representation in the oil and gas sector remains lower than in these other industries.


The issue extends beyond the Board. Women continue to be underrepresented in oil and gas at all career stages. ‘Untapped Reserves’ (, the first-ever global study on gender balance focused on the oil and gas industry, reported in 2017 that women made up just 22% of the worldwide oil and gas workforce. (Figure 2) The report also highlighted that the percentage of women in oil and gas workforce drops over time with a particularly sharp downturn – from 25% to 17% - between middle-management and senior-leadership career stages (Rick, Martén, & Lonski, 2017).


Multiple issues are at play. The 2017 Untapped Reserves study found that lack of awareness, access and support or sponsorship mean women often miss out on the career opportunities available to their male counterparts. They also reported it challenging to balance the demands of career and family, especially mid-career.


Oil and gas industry must continue to focus on D&I 

The pressures companies face in the wake of the pandemic actually increase the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Pandemic-driven demand and price shocks have forced oil and gas companies to sharply cut costs and reduce their workforce. But reducing D&I investment is a mistake. An article in Hart Energy (Goydan, Kharisov, & Sethurathinam, 2020) reinforced the importance of protecting and delivering on diversity & inclusion goals, calling COVID-19 an ‘unlikely ally’, and noting that remote work has benefited gender balance by allowing greater flexibility and fewer technical or field offshore rotations. It also stressed the need to attract digital and other emerging forms of talent as companies shift away from traditional business models and talent pools.


Research also tells us that companies fostering a range of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives perform better (Tsusaka, Krentz, & Reeves, 2019). By the end of the last global financial crisis, the S&P 500 had dropped by more than 35%. But the stocks of inclusive companies—those where women and people of color described positive work experiences—rose by 14% over the same period (Business Wire, 2019). Research has repeatedly shown D&I to make economic sense, but the need is even higher during a slowdown.


Where do we go from here? 

Adopting this year’s International Women’s Day motto, companies and employees are invited to #choosetochallenge the continued underrepresentation of women in oil and gas. The World Petroleum Council (WPC) and BCG invite all to participate in participate in the current study ‘Untapped Reserves 2.0’(( on “Driving gender balance in oil and gas”.


A company survey will be used to gather statistical information about the state of the industry and draw out insights on progress in D&I since 2017. Companies participating in this survey will be provided a customised D&I benchmark report, highlighting strengths and gaps versus peers and industry best practice.


Employee will also get the chance to share their views on work/life balance, policies that work, and where more work is needed to improve gender balance, diversity, and inclusion within oil and gas. The final report with best practice case studies will be presented at the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston at the end of the year and form a hands-on guide for companies and individuals to ensure the inclusion and best utilization of these Untapped Reserves. 


To access both the surveys, go to and reach out to in case of any questions.


1 References

Business Wire. (2019, December 20). Announcing the 100 Best Workplaces for Diversity. Business Wire.

Goydan, P., Kharisov, I., & Sethurathinam, R. (2020, November 24). How E&Ps Can Unlock Value to Thrive Post-Pandemic. Hart Energy.

Rick, K., Martén, I., & Lonski, U. V. (2017). Untapped Reserves: Promoting Gender Balance in Oil & Gas. World Petroleum Council; Boston Consulting Group.

Tsusaka, M., Krentz, M., & Reeves, M. (2019, June 20). The Business Imperative of Diversity. BCG Henderson Institute.


About the Authors

Ulrike von Lonski - Chief Operating Officer World Petroleum Council (WPC) - As COO for the World Petroleum Council, Ulrike manages key operations of the WPC, deputizes for the Director General and organises its triennal Congress in close cooperation with the elected host country. The WPC is dedicated to facilitating dialogue between stakeholders and promoting the responsible production, development and best use of the world’s energy resources and products for the benefit of all. The 23rd World Petroleum Congress will be held in Houston in December 2021. Ulrike is spearheading the gender activities at WPC and authored the global study on Untapped Reserves with BCG (


Prachi Agrawal - Manager, Untapped Reserves 2.0 Boston Consulting Group (BCG) - Prachi is leading the Untapped Reserves oil and gas gender study for BCG and is based in Sydney. She is an Electrical Engineer and an MBA holder from London Business School. At BCG she supports clients in Oil and Gas and Mining sectors with strategy formulation, transformation set-up, change management and senior stakeholder engagement. She worked with Shell prior to BCG, supporting assets in Oman, India, South East Asia and Australia with electrical engineering design, operations, maintenance and HSSE across upstream and downstream.

Font: By Ulrike von Lonski and Prachi Agrawal
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