Caron Hawco Group
Since the mid-90s, I’ve held many roles in the oil and gas industry: as a supplier (communications consultant to oil and gas operators, associations, and contractors), an employee (seven years with Statoil), and an industry leader (Chair of noia, NL Oil and Gas Week, Women in Oil and Gas Conference). NLOWE has invited me to write a series of articles focused on how to do business in the province’s oil and gas industry. My goal is to give you a female insider’s perspective by tapping into my experiences, knowledge, and business skills to assist you as you seek opportunities in the oil and gas industry.
Oil and gas companies in Newfoundland and Labrador must encourage and commit to diversity to meet the requirements of regulations and benefits agreements. Some also promote diversity as part of their initiatives in corporate social responsibility. Despite these commitments, there is a considerable gender gap across the industry. In particular, the number of female-led businesses in the supply chain is extremely low. Canadian women-owned businesses comprise less than 5 percent of all domestic and international suppliers to corporations and governments. Unfortunately, I suspect the percentage of female suppliers supporting Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil and gas industry is even lower.
In this first article, I will provide background information on how diversity is managed in Newfoundland and Labrador’s petroleum industry. The purpose is to establish a foundation of knowledge because the more you know about the industry, the better you will be able to speak the language, make business decisions, and navigate this complex environment. Ultimately, I also hope that you, as a business leader and entrepreneur, will be equipped and motivated to contribute to the broader industry discussions that affect our province, such as connecting diversity to the growth and maturation of our industry. After all, businesses that promote diversity perform better and are more profitable.
Over the life of a project, an oil and gas company wishing to operate off our shores must make diversity commitments to Newfoundland and Labrador through two avenues:
- The regulations managing the offshore oil and gas industry (Atlantic Accord)
Diversity commitments must be included in an operator’s Benefits Plan. The focus is on facilitating full and fair opportunity to participate in the supply chain and employment. These aspects of the industry are managed by the regulatory authority: the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB).
- The benefits agreement negotiated between an oil and gas company and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador prior to a development
This includes commitments to specific local employment, procurement, construction, and diversity for the project in question.
The diversity commitments in a benefits agreement often include employment goals or targets for women and under-represented groups and business access strategies to increase the number of diverse suppliers in a development project’s supply chain.
The business access strategies tend to include supplier development initiatives, training, monitoring, and reporting. They do not provide female-led companies with an advantage in the procurement process. It’s important to understand this, as the diversity language in the agreements may lead female entrepreneurs to expect a competitive advantage that does not exist.
The bottom line is that an oil and gas company and its major contractors will normally select a supplier who offers the best quality, service, delivery, and competitive pricing.
What I’ve learned is the industry is generally willing to advise and facilitate participation. Some may even open a door or two if you have the right connections. But this is based on your business offering, not gender. Oil and Gas is a highly competitive, exacting industry. You must network and establish relationships, offer a service or supply that meets a need or solves a problem, always be on time and on budget, and meet client expectations.
I look forward to digging deeper in future articles into the structure of this industry and the possibilities it has to offer!