Moderated by Natacha Massano, Executive Board Member for Angola’s National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG), the session featured a panel discussion that included Kátia Epalanga, Executive Board Member, Sonangol; Dr. Maggy Shino, Mines Commissioner, Republic of Namibia; Tãnia Almeida, Secretary General, TotalEnergies E&P Angola; Andreia Prata e Queiroz, ExxonMobil Planning Manager and Women Interest Network Chairperson; Lwena Sebastiao, General Manager Corporate Affairs, Chevron Angola; and Ana Ferreira, Human Resources Director, Azule Energy as speakers
“We clearly need to give a voice to women in energy,” started Natacha Massano, Executive Board Member for the ANPG, adding that, “We need to challenge ourselves so that other women may look at us and feel that they might be able to overcome the challenges that other women have faced.”
Highlighting the role of women working in Africa’s energy sector, the panelists discussed the important trends in energy and the challenges of breaking through the glass ceiling and how to deal with issues surrounding diversity and equal opportunities.
“First of all, we try finding ways of attracting more female talent into our industry. We need to promote inclusion and diversity and women have to be able to look at their leaders in order to assess, and become inspired by, their performance, their behavior, and our leadership needs must be able to reflect a strong sense of diversity,” stated Lwena Sebastiao, General Manager for Corporate Affairs at Chevron Angola.
With the energy sector comprising one of the most unequal sectors globally, and female participation remaining considerably low, the panel session sought to highlight solutions towards enhancing inclusivity and ensuring women are actively involved in Africa’s energy transformation.
“Our objective is to promote the professional and personal development of women in Angola,” stated Andreia Prata de Queiroz, ExxonMobil Planning Manager and Women Interest Network Chairperson, adding, “We believe that if we work together, we can move forward. We have been organizing events that can help women to develop and share their experiences, mechanisms, and benefits for women so that they can develop, and also to ensure that they see that women are able to progress within the industry.”
“We have to create conditions so that women, not only excel and grow, but retain their positions in the energy industry, and receive support from the topmost levels,” added Kátia Epalanga, Executive Board Member for Sonangol.
In addition to identifying root causes regarding education and barriers to entry, the need to support and create the opportunity for women pursuing the various field within Africa’s energy industry.
“My presence here already speaks volumes as to what women in Namibia can do,” stated Dr. Maggy Shino, Mines Commissioner for the Republic of Namibia, adding, “We have about six directorates and only two of them are led by men, demonstrating our country’s commitment towards empowering women. We do not see ourselves as subordinate, we do not see ourselves as equal to men. We see ourselves as capable through our own nature – of bringing a unique perspective and sense of expertise to the workplace.”
Meanwhile, with regards to how women in energy might benefit local communities in Africa, Tãnia Almeida, Secretary General for TotalEnergies E&P Angola, stated, “Our collective responsibility is to see that female empowerment should also benefit the community.”
“So far, we are aware that diversification makes a difference,” added Ana Ferreira, Human Resources Director at Azule Energy, concluding that, “More diversification will result in more opportunities for more people, thus tackling and solving the challenges of communities throughout Africa and the world.”
The value of a supportive workplace culture was reinforced by closing remarks by Melissa Bond, President and General Manager for ExxonMobil Angola and Chairperson for the Association of Exploration and Production Companies in Angola, stating, “Diversity is good for business. Equality benefits communities. We’ve got to give women the opportunities and we’ve got to create the conditions to allow women to become successful.”
Women have a critical role to play in advancing Africa’s oil and gas industry. by fostering increased inclusivity across every level and within the entire energy value chain, Africa’s development can not only be ensured, but accelerated. By addressing issues of inclusivity, inequality, and barriers to entry, Africa can realize its development goals.