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Women in Energy An ‘Untapped Reserve’ to Bridge the Skill Gap in the Energy, Oil, Gas Industry – Dr. Dunni, WEOG President


As Women in Energy Oil and Gas Association (WEOG) celebrated its five (5) years anniversary recently, The Energy Republic had an exclusive interview with Dr. Dunni Owo, President of Women In Energy, Oil and Gas Association (WEOG), who is also the CEO of Blackgold Energy Authorities, about the association’s pivotal role in gender equality, and its support programme to empower women in energy to bridge the gap in the industry.

Interview By: Genevieve Aningo

TER: Congratulations to the Women In Energy Oil and Gas Association (WEOG) as it clocked 5 years this year! Can you walk us through the Journey so far?

Dunni: The journey is a far journey that started five years ago. Firstly, International Forum for Women In Energy Oil and Gas also called Women In Energy Oil and Gas (WEOG) is an organization born out of a need, having identified a gap in the energy industry.

The energy industry is a male-dominated industry that got to a point worldwide when the gender gap was becoming too obvious. However, the Sustainable Development Goal for Gender Diversity (SDG5) came on board, which several countries signed to support gender equality. The SDG5 played well in some sectors, but, it wasn’t fully supported in the energy, oil, and gas industry.

Moving forward, I would also commend the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, the United States of America which was very instrumental in the establishment of the Women In Energy Oil and Gas Association.

I have been attending the OTC event, including a side event called the Women In Industry Sharing Experience (The Wise) programme since 2013. It is very amazing to listen to women during the OTC Wise Programme who have been able to shatter the glass ceiling in getting to leadership positions in the industry.

The OTC Wise Programme of 2017 had a very engaging keynote speaker named Sussan Morrice, who happen to be an indefectible entrepreneur that founded oil in a country called Belize. Sussan Morrice was at the OTC WISE event to tell her story and it was very inspiring.

For me, I found her story as an inspiration and I was thinking how we can take Women in energy to the next level. That’s when the thought of having an organized Women in Energy, Oil and Gas Association started coming into my agenda.

Between 2017 and 2018, there was a lot of research work going on. However, in 2018, I went to OTC with my award-winning masterpiece titled, “Blackgold Refinery Business Made Easy”, a book I authored that was officially launched in 2016 as a masterpiece to demystify all the myths around the refining business in Africa. The book is sold at Amazon at the rate of $100.

In 2018, I went to OTC with 200 copies of the refinery book and gave it out as a gift to many Africans who participated in the event.

After the panel session at the OTC Wise event in 2018, I and other women participants started talking about establishing the Women in Energy Oil and Gas Association. We concluded and accepted to establish the association.

There were eight women present from across Africa during our discussions to establish an association for Women in Energy Oil and Gas at OTC 20218. These women are from South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, etc… This was how the Women in Energy Oil and Gas Association was birthed at OTC 2018.

From that period when we got back to Nigeria, we started talking about corporate governance and the registration of the association. After then, we started looking for Women professionals who would become the founding members and it took a lot of work in trying to convince people to be part of our association.

From 2018 – 2019, we were just laying the foundation and making sure it is a solid foundation.

Within the first 1 year of WEOG’s establishment, we called for executive leadership volunteers and the majority of people that responded were from the industry such as NNPC, DPR now NUPRC, and some private sector players.

We also had some women from other African countries who responded to our call to be part of the founding executive leadership volunteers for the association.

We also reached out for collaboration and alliances that we can leverage on because I don’t believe in inventing the wheel, but, I would rather leverage on an existing wheel and build on it.

On this note, we reached out to existing women in energy associations from different countries and some responded by supporting our association in one way or the other. These organizations include Women in Energy Network, Women in Energy Colorado, and some other associations.

To cut a long story short, we called for another executive leadership forum volume 2. This time around we wanted to build capacity. We sourced for special training on association management, strategic management, operational management, etc…

The capacity building was a five-day training sponsored by a bank called Wells Fargo in the United States of America. The training attracted people from the US, Africa, and the Asia Pacific.

WEOG was fortunate to be among the organization that was sponsored to participate in the capacity-building program. It was such an enlightening program that helped us to lay a solid foundation for our association.

There were over 40 different associations and chambers present during the capacity-building training program from across different parts of the world.

Due to our commitment and seriousness during the program, the professors selected WEOG among the organization they will use as a case study. They also helped us to do some finishing touches on our association strategy and after everything, we had a fantastic blueprint that made WEOG look like an association that is ten years old.

We used the blueprint, but, we also customized it to fit into the Nigerian and African environments.

After that period, we started moving forward and achieving critical milestones. So, that is how WEOG started and we are happy that WEOG is five years old this year.

Our members are from the entire energy value chain which includes Women in Energy, Women in Oil, Women in Gas, as well as Upstream, Midstream, Downstream, Services, Academia, Public and Private Sector, including Host Community Women.

Our members are over 2,000 Women professionals in the energy industry.

TER: One of the focal points of WEOG is contributing to SDG 5 – ‘Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls’, in reference to the energy, oil, and gas industry. As the President of WEOG, why is this cause a major concern to the association?

Dunni: Sustainable Development Goal (SDG5) is a major driver for what we do in WEOG right from the beginning. Our vision, mission, and objectives are centralized on SDG5, but, it is customized to the energy, oil, and gas industry.

One of the main reasons energy is very important for us, particularly in Africa is that once you can fix energy, the continent is 70% fixed because energy is a major issue in Africa.

Secondly, there are very few women representation in the energy, oil, and gas industry leadership positions. If the United Nations has identified seventeen SDGs and they didn’t make gender diversity, inclusion, and equity No. 17 or No. 16, but, they made it No. 5. So, five over seventeen shows the level of importance of gender equality for any nation and company looking forward to achieve sustainability.

For WEOG, it is about sustainability and closing the gap that hasn’t been fully utilized.

We call it the untapped reserve, while some people call it the untapped resources.

Over the years, a lot of organizations, including industries have only been using half of their capacity and they are struggling. A task that should take one week to complete, is taking one month because the other half haven’t been used.

Part of the core vision and objectives of WEOG is to close the gender gap in the energy, oil, and gas industry.

We have been able to identify three gaps we would like to close, namely:

  1. The Gender Gap: The oil and gas industry is traditionally known as a male-dominated industry. We want to close that gap.
  2. Energy Poverty Gap: Energy poverty is too wide in our nation and across Africa. If we can fix energy, the continent will be 70% fixed because it will have a multiplier effect that will spur other industries to grow.
  3. Economic Gap: According to OPEC data in those days, Nigeria is supposed to be the 5th largest oil-producing nation and 9th largest gas reserves. These are natural resources God has blessed the nation with and these resources are supposed to bring transformational effects to our national economic growth, which include human resources, infrastructure, education, among others. If we can manage our resources efficiently, it will transform the other areas of our economy. There is a huge gap in our educational system which has led to many Nigerians studying abroad.

We want to close the gap between the energy, oil, and gas resources that the nation is blessed with.

In the course of closing these gaps, there will be opportunities for networking such as business opportunities, career development, and entrepreneurial opportunities for our women.

It will also move organizations that will become our corporate members forward, including industries such as the upstream, midstream, downstream sector, gas sector, power sector, renewable energy, hydrogen, and nuclear energy, among others.

Our slogan says ‘Energy Women Closing Energy Gaps’.

TER: Are there any support programs WEOG is currently using to close the gaps?

Dunni: WEOG has several support programs that we have carried out and are still ongoing in the last five years of our existence.

Some of them are signature programs that we created in collaboration with industry bodies.

We also have advocacy programs. In 2018 after the establishment of WEOG, we attended an event organized by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board in collaboration with the Bank of Industry (BOI).

We advocated for the NCDMB to include funds for women in energy in the Nigerian Content Intervention Fund (NCIF).

So, we started advocacy campaign within the association to enlighten our women about these funds because a lot of the women don’t know about it.

We used our communication channels both internal and external to let women in energy know about the NCIF which they can qualify for. It started in 2018.

In 2019, we had an opportunity to present to the NCDMB what our needs are for Women in the industry.

Finally, in 2020, our advocacy yielded a result. From the NCIF, about $20 million was allocated for Women in Energy, which was managed by Nexim Bank.

However, Nexim Bank doubled the funds for us to an additional $20 million, in total of $40 million. It is a revolving fund with a 5% interest rate.

The fund is known as the Women in Oil and Gas Nigerian Content Intervention Fund. Women-owned businesses can access the fund for up to five years.

Some of our members have also benefitted from the NCIF.

Another support programme that we have is the Diversity Sectorial Working Group. We also advocated for the creation of the group to support women in energy.

TER: The theme for International Women’s Day was ‘Accelerating Equality & Empowerment: How Women’s Leadership & Collective Action Can Make a Difference’. However, it’s been revealed that only 22 percent of women are involved in the oil and gas sector with only 15 percent of women making it to technical and field positions, according to Global Energy Talent Index 2022. Apart from being a male-dominated industry, what other factors are against more women taking up top executive roles, especially in Nigeria and Africa?

Dunni: I’m also a member of the Nigerian Content Consultative Forum, a volunteer group under the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB). In the course of my engagement with the group since 2017, I also discovered that there are huge gaps in women’s participation in government and industry.

Based on our research, we found out that the challenge hindering women professionals from taking up leadership roles is ‘Unconscious Bias’. This is an issue that cuts across the entire energy industry globally. There is just the mindset that the energy industry is for men, while the catering and cooking are for women. The issue has continued to replicate itself for years now.

At WEOG, we have deliberately made some effort in developing strategies as well as starting an awareness campaign to change the perspective about women’s participation in the industry. Technology has also come into place as you can sit in your office and monitor the operations in the industry. Leveraging technology is also important for the industry.
We aren’t trying to compete with the men, but, we are coming into the industry to close the gap that has been identified.

TER: As a capital-intensive industry, what financial networks, and plans are available for WEOG members who wish to upscale their business from SMEs to bigger businesses bearing in mind that lack of access to credit and loans have been the bane why women play at the lower fields in the industry?

Dunni: In my previous response, I told you about the Nigerian Content Intervention Fund (NCIF). The NCIF is a 40-million-dollar intervention fund dedicated to women in energy. Women-owned businesses can access the fund for up to $500,000 for five years with just a 5% interest rate.

Aside from the NCIF, there are other smaller and bigger funds available for women in energy.

More so, women who have businesses and contracts in the energy industry can approach the Bank of Industry to apply for loans up to $5 million so long as they have the documentation of the business such as a business plan, financial model, statutory documents (licenses), the registration that needs to be done. Once the documentation is in place, it will be much easier to get the funds from BOI.
We have also set up training programs for our Women SMEs where we train them on how to package their businesses to explore opportunities in the industry.

TER: In terms of training and empowerment which is a cure to uplift women from being stagnant at non-technical positions or entry-level. Can you share what WEOG is doing in terms of equipping women with the skills needed to remain relevant in the industry?

Dunni: Our capacity building and training program arm is very strong. WEOG has short, mid-term, and long-term courses. We organize these training programs within association.

One of the signature events we created is the ‘WEOG Launch and Learn. We host this training every Wednesday, for 1 hour, where we encourage our women and boost their morale to position their businesses for growth opportunities. These training programs cover the entire value chain, including business development, technical and non-technical aspects of the industry.

In one of our programs, we have also invited the former Director General of Nigerian Shipping as a special guest to share nuggets about the midstream business, career opportunities, and maritime opportunities.

We have also brought in the Chief Innovation and Technology Officer from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to come to share ideas and experiences on how to be innovative in the industry.

We are organizing these programs every week on Wednesday between 01:00 PM – 02:00 PM.

In addition to that, we also have specialized programs that we host for three days. Some of our training programs are instructor-led, hybrid, and virtual.

We have also done a five-day training program on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

We have also done several training programs on SME businesses that women professionals can establish without much capital investment.

We have also organized leadership development and entrepreneurial courses.

For our professional employees, we have also done a lot of training programs on how to navigate to leadership positions in the industry.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, it was our best time ever to organize virtual programs via Zoom. Interestingly, we got participants from across the world.

TER: Still on gender equality, diversification, inclusion, and women vying for top positions, what can you say about the presence of Elohor Aiboni as the First Female MD of Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Company (SNEPCO) and Margery Chuba- Okadigbo as the Pioneer Board Chairman, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) done for women in the energy, oil, and gas industry. Have there been any benefits or enhanced work culture in terms of policies regulating how women operate and function in the industry?

Dunni: I can only talk about what I have experienced. For the Managing Director of SNEPCO, Engr. Elohor Aiboni, she was among the speakers during the OTC WISE program in Houston, United States. She was also managing the Bonga FPSO back then, Shell’s first FPSO in Nigeria before her appointment as the Managing Director of SNEPCO.

One thing I like about Elohor is her passion for the industry. I also believe that these are one of the things that got her the appointment to become the Managing Director of SNEPCO.

One lesson to take from Elohor’s career journey is that for every opportunity you are given in leadership, you need to make the best out of it. Put your energy and passion into it because you can never tell what will come out of it. This is what I can say about Elohor’s leadership path in the industry.

Concerning Senator Margery Chuba – Okadigbo, she has been a mother in the industry and very supportive particularly to Women in Energy Oil and Gas (WEOG). She is also our Ambassador at WEOG.
She encourages and mentors the women in WEOG to stay focused to move to the next level. One of the events we held this year, was the International Women’s Day Program, which we have over 350 attendees, and she was the grand patron for that event.

She is a very good example of a limitless woman by taking up the challenge to inspire other women.

As the Chairperson of NNPCL, I see her giant strides in the way she turned things around as a board member of the company. You will see her at industry events speaking as an expert as well as listening to industry issues and also trying to see how they can proffer solutions.

This is part of the reason she won the Energy Sheroes Lifetime Achievement Award 2023 because she is the first Woman Chair Person at NNPCL since its establishment.

For me, this is amazing.

TER: As someone who have a large network of women professionals, what are those peculiar policies you believe would enhance women’s productivity and participation in the industry?

Dunni: First, Nigeria is among the signatory of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. There is no point in reinventing a new wheel (policy), let’s just implement the existing ones. We have the national women’s development policy. Let’s just implement it. It isn’t about creating new policies, but, let’s see how they can be implemented across the board, including in the public and private sectors.

I think Nigeria has a National Gender Policy coupled with policies to support gender equality which are under the Ministry of Women Affairs both at the State and Federal Levels. They need to implement these policies which would enable the private sector to incorporate them into their gender diversity desk and HR policies.

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