Though women comprise just 22% of the utility workforce compared to 47% in other industries, we’re spotlighting the power of each individual spark to ignite change. Follow along with our Women in Power series as we celebrate and empower women leading the way in a wide range of careers where AR/FR clothing plays a role.
Like many women, Candice Onraët wasn’t raised to be outspoken about her needs. But during her career in the oil and gas industry, she’s learned to appreciate the value she brings to her role and realizes the advantages of being authentic and advocating for herself. And she encourages other women to do the same, inviting them to share their knowledge and skills in an industry ripe with excellent opportunities for women.
Watch Candice share the strategies she uses to navigate her career as a woman in an industry with a historically male culture:
As Candice shares in the video, she was raised in South Africa and, while living there, earned her degree in cultural studies. This background in intercultural communication has served her well, honing her skills at interacting with people very different from herself – a skill set in high demand in the oil and gas industry. Candice moved to Calgary, Canada, choosing this location because of its sunny climate. She works in change management and continuous improvement for an oil and gas pipeline company in Calgary. Candice recalls, “I was blown away by the opportunity in Calgary and in the oil and gas industry. I’ve never felt like I was being spoken down to for not coming in with a technical acumen. On the contrary, I felt so welcomed by the technicians working in the field.”
Facing Challenges: “You’ve got to have a plan.”
Candice appreciated the fact that she was valued for her collaboration and communication skills. But, as a woman working in an industry that long ago was designed to suit men, she soon realized that the systems, policies, logistics, and culture are based on assumptions that the employee is male. It’s challenging for women who want to add value, be part of the team, and engage in the culture. A plan is needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles. Candice relates, “For me, that means I’ve got to spend five to ten percent of my brain power – that I could be using to perform my job – navigating those spaces and making it work for me. And that is tough. I think most women would identify with that.”
Candice has found support in the industry, but the support wasn’t always there. It took courage on her part to be honest, speak up and advocate for herself. She often observed men advocating for their needs without shame because they learned as boys and men to speak up to get their desired outcomes. She realized she could choose different ways of approaching challenging situations. She states, “As long as I was trying to be a good girl and not complain, and not observe the difficulties, they just continued. And that was tough to overcome. As soon as I started making a little bit more noise, things got better for me very quickly.”
Advice for Other Women: Authenticity is Key
As a manager of other women, Candice has often thought about the question, “What would make life better or easier for a female in your industry?” She believes the first step is being authentic and identifying the challenges. She notes, “Everybody’s challenges are going to be different. Being honest about them and having the courage to speak about them is the first step. We’re not going to get anywhere if we delude ourselves about the realities.”
Furthermore, these conversations don’t need to be difficult. They can be conducted in a way that is assertive yet empathic and non-judgmental. Candice recommends a three-step approach to help women tactfully and effectively voice their needs:
- “I can see exactly why you’ve been doing it this way for a long time.”
- “It doesn’t work for me, and these are the reasons why.”
- “Here are some options I would prefer.”
Candice intentionally creates a safe space for the women who report to her, enabling them to share their concerns. “It’s all about taking the parts of the training we receive as girls and as women, finding the pieces that work for us, and using those in the workplace. Don’t dispense with them. Don’t try to become masculine,” Candice adds.
Promising Future for Women in the Oil and Gas Industry
Candice encourages more women to consider careers in the oil and gas industry as they add diversity to an organization. She states, “Any group of people where just one way of doing things and one way of seeing things predominate is at risk. We need diversity to have the resilience to change with the times and grow.” In an industry challenged by climate change, regulatory changes, and other issues, diversity and flexibility are vital. “The more we bring women into the industry, the more we change the voices, change the feedback, bring new perspectives, and new ideas,” Candice adds.
Candice is proud of her role in bringing together people of diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and perspectives to help them work together. As she sees it, collaboration, communication, and working together are critical elements for the industry’s success in the long term. She sees the industry as filled with amazing opportunities, stating, “You’ll never be unemployed if you work in oil and gas and if you add value. There’s just so much here for women, and we should take advantage of those opportunities to bring money into our families and into our communities. It’s so important.”
WOMEN IN POWER: WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
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Series: Women in Power
Follow along with this interview-style series to hear directly from women fueling careers in the energy sector on why they chose their occupation, what they like about it, their hopes for the future, their vision for the evolution of PPE, how we can help pave the way for other women, and more: