NEWS & INSIGHT | Opinion
International Women in Engineering Day
Colette Cohen OBE
Colette Cohen is the Chief Executive Officer for The Net Zero Technology Centre and has worked in the oil and gas industry for more than 25 years. Colette successfully launched The Centre in 2017 and has established it as the ‘go to’ technology centre for the industry. Since starting her career offshore with bp in 1991, Colette has worked for ConocoPhillips in the North Sea, Norway, the US and Kazakhstan, where she received a Jubilee Medal from the Kazakh Prime Minister in recognition of her contribution to the country’s oil and gas industry. Prior to joining the centre, she was Senior Vice President for Centrica Energy’s Exploration and Production business in the UK and The Netherlands.
Colette has previously served on the board of Offshore Energies UK and the OGA Decommissioning Board. She is now the Chair of the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas and unmanned aviation firm Flylogix, sits on the Technology Leadership Board, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation Delivery Board, the Deep Ocean Board and is a Non-Executive Director for both OPITO and NORECO. She is also a Commissioner for the Just Transition Commission for Scotland, an active champion for the industrial transition of the oil and gas industry to a net zero future and a committed role model for women in industry.
In October 2021, Colette was nominated for appointment as a non-executive director for Technip Energies, acting as an observer at the meetings of the Board of Directors until after the company’s 2022 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders.
Colette is a chemistry graduate from Queens University Belfast, has a Masters in Project Management and Economics from Ceram University, an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, and is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and the Institute of Directors.
From Beatrice Shilling in the 1930s changing how planes flew, to Marissa Mayer and Gwynne Shotwell today changing how we live, great women engineers have existed but often not attained the recognition of their male counterparts. So why does that matter? Well, companies with diverse boards and teams consistently outperform their competition. Diversity is not only good – it’s great.
But to get diversity, particularly in technical companies, we need to have the potential for diverse teams. And I’ll totally agree with you – we need full diversity of thought, not just gender diversity. But today, we’re highlighting the lack of women in engineering, so I’d like to stay focused on that one issue.
We need more women choosing engineering and then we need to retain women in engineering.
But again – why should you care?
Well, I’m pretty sure all of you have a sister/niece/daughter. Don’t you want them to have fulfilling, value creating, satisfying, well paid careers? And that’s exactly what a career in engineering is. I don’t think I’ve ever met an engineer who describes their job as dull.
We problem solve, add value, create new things and reimagine old ones. It’s a fabulous vocation. It’s a lifetime of opportunity.
But we consistently fail to level the playing field around STEM and ensure that our young women see Engineering and Science as a career option for them. There is an unconscious bias in our language when we speak to young girls and women about physics and maths, technology and design and engineering in particular.
Look deep… how often have you championed these subjects when you speak to young women? How often do you question the commentary of a female engineer in your team? Are you creating a level playing field? Girls consistently outperform boys in technology and design (73% girls get A* or better vs 55% of boys) and yet this doesn’t translate to women in STEM subjects in University; hence we lack the opportunity to create great diverse teams in our industry.
We need to change this. We need to change the perception of engineering.
You want to save the planet – become an engineer.
You want to build a new world – become an engineer.
You want to build the next great digital platform – become an engineer.
You want to create the coolest running shoes, car, water system in Africa, hospital in your neighbourhood or help create a net zero world… become an engineer.
So today as we celebrate women in engineering – recognise the women in your team, talk about them and others at home, celebrate the diversity, help level the playing field.
Champion a new future for all of us.
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