At more than 11,800 feet from sea level in Phey Village of Ladakh, Padma Angmo and 10 other women work at the world's highest LPG bottling plant. Run by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the country's largest fuel retailer, the plant ensure cooking gas access to far-flung areas of Ladakh and Kargil, besides serving the security forces."I feel proud to serve the people of region," says Padma, a local who has been employed here since its commissioning in 2001-02. At the site, where temperature can fall to minus 30 degrees, women make up more than half the staff of 20. Their activities include filling and handling of cylinders, performing quality control checks, maintenance of the plant, managing documents, gardening and looking after the canteen. They represent a change in the oil and gas sector where gender diversity is the lowest across industries globally. Even more so in India. "While women account for 28 percent of the total workforce in India, the share of women in oil and gas is the lowest across major sectors at 8 per cent," says Anirban Mukherjee partner and director, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
According to a report by the BCG, women participation in senior leadership globally in e oil and gas sector is 17 per cent but the share in India is just 5 per cent. The sector reflects a similar trend within the government. There has never been a woman minister at the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. Nor has it ever been represented by a woman secretary, the senior most bureaucrat in a ministry.
The strength of women in other sectors in India is much higher--healthcare at 48 per cent, education 49 percent, hospitality 16 per cent, manufacturing 18 per cent, finance 31 per cent and information technology 25 per cent.
Narayani Mahil, director communications at BP Plc in India and a former head of the communications division of Oil Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), however, says, "I feel the oil and gas industry is hugely misunderstood." Mahil had an unusual experience when she got the offer to join the Corporate Planning and Management Service of the country's largest oil and gas producer in 1984. "For almost two years, I was on and off the job because I told the company I had a small child," she says. The fact that she had a woman general manager Reena Ramachandran as her department head helped.