A Reflective Look at Millennial Entrepreneurs in Oil, Gas

by Valerie Jones, Careers Editor

A few months ago, I began work on a story for which I had high hopes and believed would serve as an inspiration to the next generation of oil and gas professionals around the globe.

There’s been much published recently about millennials and Rigzone has studied their values and concerns, their workplace characteristics and what attracts them to the oil and gas industry. Often characterized as an ambitious generation, millennials are extremely focused on career advancement. I wanted to seek out some of those millennials who decided to take the entrepreneurial route and start their own oil and gas companies.

The oil and gas industry is global and becoming increasingly more diverse, so I was convinced that the list of millennial entrepreneurs would reflect that diversity – in type of business, gender and ethnicity.

So I began scouring the globe – professional industry organizations, internal references, national lists, university engineering programs, recommendations from colleagues, crowdsourcing, etc. – and soon realized I’d stumbled upon quite the roadblock: a lack of ethnic diversity.

Though I was impressed by the number of talented and determined young entrepreneurs on my list, several being women (significant because statistics show that women are underrepresented in oil and gas) there was a distinct void of minorities – namely no African-Americans.

This was extremely troubling to me, so rather than turning a blind eye, I decided to address the elephant in the room. I made a distinct effort to find minority organizations, engineering programs at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and minority colleagues to get recommendations for minority entrepreneurs. I was greeted with similar responses: either the entrepreneurs were too old to be considered millennials, they didn’t start/own their companies or worse yet – they had no recommendations.

I had several discussions with people both in and close to the industry, and it helped provide insight into why I was struggling with this particular part of my story. I was forced to put things into context. My revelation was quite interesting, so I wanted to share.

Often times, minorities are not exposed to the oil and gas industry or even STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) opportunities at a young age – often there’s no parent in the industry and students aren’t encouraged to pursue STEM education at the primary or secondary level. So with minimal exposure and interest, it’s not common that these individuals would aspire to start companies in the industry.

Another key characteristic of the industry is networking – who you know is just as important as the circles you associate yourself with. Even for minority students studying STEM, It may not be until well into college or after graduation that they begin to make connections with individuals who can really help them enter the industry, and we all know these types of connections can be vital to jumpstarting a successful career. One of the most common questions aspiring oil and gas workers have is how can they break into the industry. Without making the right connections, many minorities must rely on furthering their education and pursuing advanced degrees, which can take several years.

While the number of minorities in oil and gas is growing, minority senior leadership (on boards and within the organizations) as well as entrepreneurship still has room for growth. As that begins to occur, I believe we will begin to see more minorities as the CEOs of oil and gas companies. And those individuals can help develop opportunities for other younger minorities to follow in their footsteps.

Not that any of the aforementioned observations are meant to serve as a handicap for minorities, but rather I think they’re important to note … again, researching for this story shined a light on the issue for me.

And by no means am I discounting any of the amazing millennial energy entrepreneurs on the list – it is, in fact, a diverse group and each person is deserving to be on the list. And this is not to say that there aren’t any minority millennial energy entrepreneurs in the world. I know there are. I hope they read this blog and reach out to me. I’d love to include them in my next list!

My hope is that each time we do a list like this, whether it’s three months from now or three years from now, it will become more and more diverse – which will be a direct reflection of the industry as a whole … one day.

Check Rigzone Thursday, Nov. 26 to read “The World’s Millennial Energy Entrepreneurs”

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