Women fueling the future of the oil industry

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Local schools are working major players in the oil field to eliminate gender stereotypes in the industry.

Female high school students attended Fletcher Technical Community College and South Central Louisiana Technical College to learn about the oil industry and the women who are part of it.

The event last Friday was part of South Central Industrial Association’s “Females Fueling Our Workforce,” which is designed to educate youngsters who may be interested in careers for the oil the gas industry.

14 companies took part in the event including BP America, Atmos Energy, Chevron and Exxon.

Two of the guest speakers were Exxon Engineers Nishal Patel and Ashley Penna. Both helped establish the women’s interest network for Exxon and feel it is important to help young women understand that the oil industry is not just targeted for men.

“There are a lot of people who don’t think they can go forward and do things like this. They look at a field like engineering and the science classes and see it is all boys. It is intimidating because you don’t want to be the only girl,” Penna said. “It is important that the one person who doesn’t want to be the only girl does it so that others can follow.”

Both Penna and Patel feel the stereotyping can start early in life.

“You think back and how you got here because at a young age women feel they should not be in certain industries so we are trying to fix the roots of the problems,” Patel said.

Penna then added, “It is almost like girls toys when they are 5-years-old because they are pink and usually homemaker toys. Boys’ toys are all tools. Why can’t girls have tools too?”

Several of the students who attended were interested prior to listening to some of the guest speakers.

Sophomore from Patterson High School Diamond Chaney has considered a career in the oil and gas industry because of the idea of learning something new everyday.

“It is pretty cool, working in the water and learning new things everyday,” Chaney said. “There is just a lot that seems cool about it.”

While Chaney is considering the oil industry as her career, sophomore from Assumption High School, Samantha Solar has her mind already made.

“I am actually going to be a technical engineer. My dad and uncle have done the same thing so I was raised around it. It is just there for me,” Solar said.

One of the things Solar finds most interesting about the oil field is when it uses programs such as AutoCAd. The program allows people to design and draft 2-D and 3-D architectural models such as piping.

“It is amazing,” Solar said. “Instead of seeing it on paper, you see it on the computer and how technology fits into it.”

Solar has plans to attend Fletcher once she finishes high school.

Fletcher has seen an increase in its female enrollment for the BP Integrated Production Technology program over the last few years.

Jessica Coeurteaux is in her last semester of the IPT program and said just in the two years she has noticed the spike.

“A lot of the students are women, and it is growing. I am excited about the program and the direction it is going,” she said. “Hopefully we can bring in more women.”

In Coeurteaux’s pusuit for a job in the oil industry, she has noticed the demand for women is much higher for oil companies.

“I feel that the industry has really evolved over the years. I feel like companies are really looking to bring more diversity,” Coeurteaux said. “I had an interview with Schlumberger this past week, and they were looking to increase females on their team.”

Another student of the IPT program, Jennea Duran, also noticed the demand for women when she was interviewing with BP. During the interview, they asked how she felt stereotypes sometimes play a role in the workplace.

“I told them, ‘Being a single mother of two daughters along with the military experience, don’t ever set boundaries or limits to yourself,’” Duran, who served as a medic in the Army for 13 years, said. “We are made just as tough as men. We can do things men do.”

The 41-year-old preaches that same message to her two daughters because she does not want them to set limits for themselves.

“You can get out there and do whatever anyone else can do,” Duran said.

Duran is obtaining a degree in safety and compliance, which relates back to her military background.

“Safety is a big concern for me because you can go out one minute and at the drop of a hat, you can’t return home to your family,” she said.

Duran along with most of the people who interviewed with The Times had a common goal, to eliminate the stereotypes of women.

“As long as you carry yourself professionally and learn as much as you can, you will be fine,” Duran said. “You may have to take extra steps to study more and show some people that you can do just as much as a man can do. We can work together to make the industry better.”