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Nigerian Businesswomen Work to Change Face of Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry is still overwhelmingly male, with surveys showing that the executive boardrooms of petroleum companies are mostly a boys’ club.

In Nigeria, a number of well-financed businesswomen are aiming to change the picture there. Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke is a powerful figurehead for them.

“The fact that two of the biggest cabinet positions in Nigeria, petroleum and finance, are held by women, show how far we have come,” she told a recent meeting in Vienna, referring to the other prominent female member of the cabinet — Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

“We are there not because we are women. We are there because of our competence as managers.”

Yet as surveys make clear, women managers are still in the minority in the world’s oil and gas companies. Laura Manson-Smith, a consulting partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says the representation picture is dismal.

“I was surprised at how low the percentage of female directors was [in oil and gas firms around the globe] — 11 percent, most of them are in non-executive positions, 1 percent of executive board seats are held by women.”


Offshore drilling

Nigeria, the world’s 14th-largest oil producing country with 2.4 million barrels a day, has taken steps to open up its oil industry to locals, a policy known as “indigenization.”

Now a handful of female entrepreneurs are hoping to build on that, by increasing women’s stake in the industry.

“When we were growing up we only had (former prime minister of the United Kingdom) Margaret Thatcher,” says Dr. Amy Jadesimi, the managing director of Ladol, a petroleum services company based in Lagos.

Jadesimi, a former Goldman Sachs analyst, medical doctor and MBA, says that today, “woman are taking for granted that, of course, a woman can reach the highest levels of society.”


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