Pink Petro Staff

Women 'don't understand' fracking, leading scientist claims (UK Telegraph)

Blog Post created by Pink Petro Staff on Oct 23, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 10.01.19 PM.png

Women are opposed to fracking because they "don't understand" and follow their gut instinct rather than the facts, according to a leading female scientist.

Averil Macdonald, the chairwoman of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said that many women are concerned about fracking, yet often lack a scientific understand of the topic.

"Not only do [women] show more of a concern about fracking, they also know that they don't know and they don't understand," Prof Macdonald, who is emeritus professor of science engagement at the University of Reading, told The Times.

Controversial drilling process known as "fracking" may release harmful gases into the atmospherePhoto: Controversial drilling process known as "fracking" may release harmful gases into the atmosphere

"They are concerned because they don't want to be taking [something] on trust. And that's actually entirely reasonable.


"Frequently the women haven't had very much in the way of a science education because they may well have dropped science at 16. That is just a fact."

Prof Macdonald is leading a campaign to persuade women that the process is safe and will benefit Britain’s economy as well as help to meet climate change targets.

Anti-Fracking protest in NYCRally in NYC in conjunction with a world wide protest against gas drilling by hydraulic fracturing known as Fracking  Photo: ALAMY

Research has shown that men are nearly twice as likely to support fracking.

Only 31.5 per cent of women believe that shale gas exploration should be allowed in the UK compared with 58 per cent of men, according to a survey of almost 7,000 people by the University of Nottingham.

The research also revealed that women are much less likely than men to know which fossil fuel is produced by fracking. Shale gas was correctly identified by 85 per cent of men but only 65 per cent of women.


Prof Macdonald, who is a board member of Women in Science and Engineering, said that women were more likely to form opinions based on “feel” and “gut reaction”.

Merely showing them more facts demonstrating that fracking was safe would not change their minds, she said.

“Why are men persuaded? That’s because an awful lot of facts have been put forward,” she said.

Fracking opponents ignoring the poor, says Church A demonstrator stands in the road as police escort a lorry to a site run by Cuadrilla Resources outside Balcombe   Photo: Reuters

“[Men] will say, ‘fair enough, understand’. But women, for whatever reason, have not been persuaded by the facts. More facts are not going to make any difference.

"What we have got to do is understand the gut reaction, the feel. The dialogue is more important than the dissemination of facts.”

Professor Macdonald said that the instinct in women to protect children from threats helped explain the gap.

• Fracking in the UK: could it happen near you?

“Women are always concerned about threats to their family more than men," she said. "We are naturally protective of our children.

"I would similarly be concerned but I read the literature and I feel comfortable that I understand.

• Britain's shale fracking revolution comes with big risks

"What I hope is that I can make the women who are concerned comfortable that the myths they are worried about are myths.”

She said that there were too few women at senior levels in the shale industry, adding that she was disappointed to see that all ten of the executives who interviewed her for the role with United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas were men.

What do you think of Averil's position?