Tech is disrupting the oil and gas industry and it’s great news for women, says PCL Group CEO and founder Jeanette Forbes.
Forbes started the Aberdeen-based IT service provider with just £100 in the bank in 2000, and over the course of 17 years has brought the company through some tough times – including £179,000 of bad debt.
After working on an oil and gas platform herself Forbes has first-hand experience of how tough the industry can be for women, but says that thanks to new tech and digital now is the perfect time for them to enter the sector.
“Oil and gas is a great sector for women, and tech will be the bedrock for that.
“In the beginning oil and gas was all very physical, and you were dragging heavy equipment across the control room floor.
“It’s not like that now.
“With the enhanced switches and sensors replacing heavy manual labour women have a tremendous opportunity to enter this sector due to our computing skills and accuracy with a keyboard because we’ve always been used to admin roles like secretary, receptionist or admin assistant.
“Our keyboarding skills are phenomenal so with an era on the horizon that combines sensors and other high-tech initiatives, who are the best people for the jobs? Women.”
Forbes herself felt pigeonholed into these reception and secretarial roles, so decided to study computing in order to get her computer science degree.
When she started PCL Group she would use the computer at her local library as she was unable to afford her own due to the prohibitively high price of computers at the time.
Forbes says that women are an untapped resource but that with the rise of digital things are changing.
“We’re going into a new era for oil and gas. It’s been challenging with the downturn but we’re coming through that and barrel prices for crude oil are on the up slightly.
“The industry is coming into a high-tech era with lots of automation that will do lots of this work remotely.
“At PCL Group we supply IT companies all over the world with the highest standard of technical delivery but I don’t have to fly an engineer everywhere anymore – it’s all done from Aberdeen.”
She now sees a lack of understanding and education as the biggest barrier to an industry that’s traditionally been slower to adopt technology due to cost.
“The hardest part is getting people to understand the transition that’s in place.
“It won’t happen overnight and there will be challenging days ahead but it’s about learning and not being afraid to ask if you don’t understand something.”