KTVA-CBS, ANCHORAGE –
Read the transcript below, or watch the report here.
Fourteen years ago, Julia Redington joined Alaska’s oil and gas industry as a construction supervisor for Alyeska Pipeline Services Co.
Redington, wife of Iditarod musher Ray Redington Jr., is an Alaskan through and through — and knew early on she wanted to pursue a career in oil and gas. Now a director of projects at Alyeska, she calls the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) an ”engineering marvel.”
As an industry veteran with a prominent position in the field, Redington admits things have changed since she first began her career.
“There wasn’t a lot of women; quite often, I’d be the only one with the construction@@ crew itself,” Redington recalled. “But there’s been more and more. I’ve seen more craft, more women in craft, as well as in different positions in operations and maintenance.”
In a report released earlier this year, the American Petroleum Institute asked women what they considered most important when looking for a career. Among the top answers were health care benefits, job security and job satisfaction.
Both Redington and Sarah Erkmann, the external affairs manager for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, say they’ve found all three of those factors in Alaska’s oil and gas industry.
“The opportunity to work in — especially in Alaska — in the industry that plays such an important role, you really feel like you’re doing something that benefits the entire state,” said Erkmann.
There’s a photo hanging in AOGA’s midtown Anchorage office — a more traditional representation of the oil and gas industry — men standing side-by-side with the backdrop of Alaska’s North Slope behind them. Those men make up 80 percent of the positions in the industry. But more and more, images of a woman sporting a hard hat and a smile are being used to reflect the changing workforce makeup.
“While we honor the work that these gentlemen have done and continue to do here in Alaska, that trend is changing a bit,” said Erkmann. “There’s definitely a move toward not only attracting more women into the industry but also mentoring women who currently work for the industry to rise through the ranks and do more.”
Those efforts include AOGA’s new social media campaign, “Meet the People of Alaska’s Oil & Gas Industry,” where local workers take over the association’s Instagram account.
Chrissy May, wildlife compliance manager for BP Alaska, and Kara Moriarty, AOGA’s president and CEO, are the two women who’ve been highlighted so far. Erkmann calls it a move to increase visibility and show work/life harmony is possible.
“As women in the industry, we work very hard, we do a lot on any given day, but we also have personal lives that we try to balance,” said Erkmann. “So Kara’s out as a football mom, making sure her kids have all their equipment on and are getting to practice; I’m taking my kids to piano lessons.”
Redington says that visibility has made a difference, evident in a recent trip to the movies with her two children.
“One of the previews, it was an ExxonMobil ad, about, ‘Do you wanna be able to build a bridge that’s able to repair itself?’ — and it went through a bunch of these scenarios,” Redington said, adding the ad was a call for more engineers in the industry. “My daughter was all excited and said, ‘Mom, do you do that? You’re an engineer.’ — And I said, ‘Well, I don’t, but you sure could.’”
It’s hard work, Redington says of her job, but enjoyable — so much so that she doesn’t plan on going anywhere; the plan is to retire at Alyeska.
That talk of job security comes at a time when Alaska’s looming state budget crisis has been brought on by low oil prices. To that, Erkmann says, “we’re definitely in a valley right now.” But she adds it shouldn’t be a deterrent to women wanting to join the workforce.
“Oil prices are stubbornly low, and so that’s creating some real challenges, not only for the state but also the industry,” said Erkmann. “But, over the long term, oil and gas is a career where you can truly, they say, hire and retire.”
Julia Redington has worked at Alyeska for 14 years.