Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's chief executive Sultan Al Jaber said that he plans to appoint a woman chief executive at one of the operating companies.
“Adnoc will seek to appoint one female chief executive across its group of operating companies,” Mr Al Jaber said on Sunday to mark Emirati Women’s Day.
The operating companies which have not yet had new chief executives appointed are Zadco, which runs a large part of the offshore oil and gas development; Takreer, the refining arm; and Adgas, the liquefied natural gas-producing unit.
He also said the state oil and gas company would commit to filling 15 per cent of its senior management roles with women by 2020. He also earmarked one of Adnoc’s assets to be managed by women, saying Al Rumaitha oilfield was being considered for this purpose.
Al Rumaitha is an onshore field that is part of the North East Bab complex in the Adco concession, which produces a little over half of Abu Dhabi's 3 million barrels per day of oil.
The Adnoc commitments come amid sweeping changes in Abu Dhabi’s energy leadership this year, which included the appointment of Mr Al Jaber himself, as well as the shake-up of most of the emirate’s non-Adnoc energy portfolio with the proposed merger of Mubadala Development and Ipic.
The Adnoc chief, who is also the Minister of State and sits on the Supreme Petroleum Council, brought in new faces in spring for almost all of the most senior jobs at the state oil company, including new heads of Adnoc's directorates and most of its key operating companies, such as Adco and Adma-Opco, which account for the bulk of Abu Dhabi's oil output.
“Adnoc is proud to be making commitments to help realise the vision of Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation, aimed at ensuring Emirati women play a greater role in the UAE’s economic prosperity,” Mr Al Jaber said.
The oil and gas industry has traditionally had relatively few women in any jobs worldwide, let alone the top jobs, although this has been changing in recent years.
Korn Ferry, a consultancy, in a study this month of US companies found that women make up just 6 per cent of chief executive positions in energy, although that was above all other industry segments apart from consumer.
“Things have dramatically improved for women in the UAE in the past few years,” said Fatema Al Neaimi, a manager at Adnoc’s gas strategy and master planning unit.
“However, we still have a long way to go as there are many challenges that need to be addressed, and these challenges are not just specific to this country or the region, but are global obstacles that the industry is facing every day.”
The UAE began to educate female petroleum engineers at Adnoc’s Petroleum Institute in the 2006-07 academic year, with the first graduates emerging in 2011.
There have been about 300 women educated through the institute’s programmes so far, including women who have gone onto senior jobs such as Salma Al Hajeri, who was in charge of a subsurface offshore project for Mubadala Petroleum off the coast of Malaysia and is currently the company’s director of reservoir engineering.
Mr Al Jaber also said that Adnoc would commit to increasing the number of new Emirati women recruits to at least 30 per cent of the total by 2020.
Adnoc said that it was already well ahead of peers in the region, where 3 per cent of employees in the sector are female. That is 10 per cent at Adnoc, of which more than 70 per cent are Emirati.
“Gender equality and women’s empowerment [is] not only the right thing to do, but also it makes business sense,” Mr Al Jaber said, noting studies that show companies with more pathways for women to advance perform better financially.
Adnoc announced several other bureaucratic initiatives to mark Women’s Day.
The company is to create a “gender policy framework” and set up its first women’s network and a leadership development programme specifically for women.
The programmes for women are part of the changes in management approach announced in spring, when the current leadership was changed. A new corporate regime was put in place then that identified top managers as "active asset managers", with a system to hold them to account for meeting specific operational and financial targets on tight schedules.
The elevation of women, with specific targets and development programmes, is part of this more meritocratic regime, Mr Al Jaber said.
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