Interview with Ivan Marten, Senior Partner & Managing Director, Vice Chairman Energy Practice, BCG

You have been at the helm of Boston Consulting Group energy practice and advising major companies in the energy sector. How do you view the developments in energy landscape of today?

Uncertainty is a major characteristic of the energy sector. In the first place, there is a Technological uncertainty due to the impressive evolution of new technologies in all aspects and domains of the energy landscape. Every technological prediction in the past has proven to be wrong. Secondly, there is a Regulatory uncertainty as this sector is greatly affected by the government decisions and regulations, and in some places we have seen that regulation tend to change quite frequently. Investments are made for 40 years but the governments change every four years and the environmental implications last centuries.

Another characteristic of the energy sector is the geopolitical dimension. The energy ecosystem is very fragile and is affected by the global geopolitics.  What happens in one area of the world will have an impact in other geographical areas, and what happens to one type of energy will affect the others. Everything is interconnected.

Finally, the energy sector is moving East as Asia will represent an increasing share of the world energy demand but also an increasing contribution to the technological development.

What approaches should energy companies pursue to be able to best respond to the uncertainties and maintain flexibility both in upstream and downstream?

In this complex environment rather than trying to predict the future, something that will be extremely difficult, it is more important to understand the drivers of the future scenarios and the potential disruptive changes, and prepare the company to adapt to them in advance.

Energy companies need to be “resilient” to be able to survive any downturn and at the same time “flexible” enough to adapt to the many changes that will happen in the future. They need to be able to detect the early warning signals or red flags that will trigger their initiatives.

Companies will need to challenge constantly their business model and the efficiency of their operations.

You have actively participated in numerous events and projects in cooperation with the WPC, including those directed towards WPC Young Professionals. We are proud that you are also joining the “Tomorrow’s Leaders Symposium” on 17 September in Belgrade. What is your message to the young professionals of today? How can they best adapt to oil & gas landscape transformations of the coming years?

Young professionals should be very proud of being part of an industry that is vital for the development of the humanity and that is committed to sustainability by being part of the solution. Without energy, nothing will happen in our societies. Oil and gas based products are key for our day-to-day lives, and we still have the challenge of providing access to energy to more than 1 billion people in the world.

Moreover, it is an industry that has a bright future since the demand for energy will continue to develop as world population grows and quality of life improves. It is a highly technology based industry that will be positively affected by the technology breakthroughs and where there will be plenty of career opportunities for the young professionals. They can be part of a fascinating transformation journey.

In an environment where the energy sector is unfairly attacked, they should go out proudly telling the valuable contributions of the sector to the society and changing the misperceptions that exist.

At the 2017 World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul, you presented a report on gender diversity in the oil and gas industry.What have been the report’s key findings? With what measures can the gender diversity potentials be untapped?

The study examines gender balance at three stages of women’s career development—entry level, midcareer, and senior management—and draws on different perspectives to provide pragmatic recommendations for how these challenges can be addressed.

The report showed that the percentage of women in the industry’s workforce drops over time and falls particularly sharply—from 25% to 17%—between the middle-management and senior-leadership career stages.  Although men and women start out on an equal footing, women rarely reach the top of the organization. This isn’t owing to a lack of ambition on the part of women. Rather, it is largely due to the fact that, among women who have spent many years in the industry, relatively few have been offered the technical and operating roles that their male colleagues have, positions that allow employees to accumulate the critical experiences necessary for advancement to senior management.

The industry can take action in a variety of areas to increase the number of female employees and accelerate its progress toward greater gender balance.

At the entry level, the industry can expand the talent pool it draws from by taking steps to increase women’s participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs. It can enhance its attractiveness to women as a career choice by promoting the wide range of jobs available and making career paths more flexible, working with governments to remove structural barriers that make it difficult for women to work in the industry, and increasing the number and visibility of senior female role models.

At the midcareer level, the industry can work to ensure that women have the same career opportunities as men, that each woman has a sponsor who can offer career guidance, and that work-life balance policies are available and applied equally to male and female employees.

At the senior-leadership level, the industry can provide stretch goals for women and the necessary support to help them succeed, broaden the range of career paths from which senior leaders are picked, and ensure that standards for promotion are applied equally to men and women.

Greater gender balance is a worthwhile and attainable goal for the industry, and one that it has the means to achieve. Provided that leadership commitment, especially from CEOs, remains sufficiently strong, the industry could boost women’s representation steadily and materially over time—and reap a host of benefits, including improved organizational performance, creativity, decision-making, and morale. Our study found that when men believe that the CEO considers gender diversity to be very unimportant, only 34% of those people view it as important or very important. But when they believe the CEO views the issue as very important, 86% of those male employees also consider it to be important or very important. In the end a commitment to gender balance needs to be part of the corporate strategy—and that commitment needs to be clearly communicated by the CEO.