Women call for end to gender discrimination in oil industry

Dubai-based recruitment firm, Bayt.com, accused the energy sector of being the worst gender discriminator in the Middle East.

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By  Jyotsna Published  June 6, 2006

At a time when the oil industry is reeling under a skill shortage, respondents to a survey published last month by a Dubai-based recruitment firm, Bayt.com, accused the energy sector of being the worst gender discriminator in the Middle East. The survey results said 75% of all job applicants had faced discrimination while applying for a job. And when asked to name the worst offender, 28.5%—the highest figure— squarely pointed to the oil industry as being gender biased. Rabea Ataya, CEO of Bayt.com said: “There is a tendency in some parts of the Middle East to place people according to gender. Companies need to see the bigger picture and prioritise skills and experience over gender.” Following the results, Oil&Gas Middle East contacted women in the industry to find out if the results reflected reality. Most agreed that they have faced discrimination. Some had even quit the industry, blaming the attitude of employers towards women. Hala Hadi, who now works for an environmental firm, left the energy sector in disgust after seven years. “Hard work never deterred me, but a lack of recognition certainly did,” she said. “While most of my male colleagues were sent for various trainings sessions within months of joining, I was not selected for training till my last year, which is the seventh year of my stint with the company,” she explained. Hadi was not the only one who spoke out about the issue, Rahaf Ajaj, a young student, faced discrimination even while applying to train in the industry as an unpaid intern, despite employers admitting that she had excellent qualifications. No one in the oil industry, she said, was even willing to give her a chance to prove her mettle. Both these women say that they are representative of a large population that is talented but not given a chance, as the industry is seen as a male bastion. When the women discussed the issue, it became obvious that the issue of gender discrimination is only the tip of the iceberg. Racism and sexism sometimes combine to torment educated women, who aspire to be on an oil field. “I’m suffering from another problem, I’m an Arab expatriate and not an Emarati and I don’t have a US or a European passport. I am quite sure, that when I finish my masters in petroleum engineering, I will not be offered a job,” Ajaj said. Many in the industry find it incredible that oil companies refuse to hire women or treat them well when hired, especially when it is facing an unprecedented skill shortage.

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