In an industry where women comprise about 20 percent of the workforce, most energy conferences have a similar percentage of female speakers. At HERWorld18, we too had a roughly 80/20 breakdown.
82 percent of our speakers were women. 18 percent were male.
One of our goals as an organization is to elevate the women in this industry. But we also want men to have a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation.
So we asked one of our male speakers — Jason Korman, CEO of culture design firm Gapingvoid — what he thought of the HERWorld18 experience, both as an industry outsider and a member of the gender minority.
Jason: Absolute hands down best part: No lines in the men’s rooms.
Many, if not most, of our stakeholders in the work that we do at Gapingvoid are female. So for me, it felt like a usual day at the office.
Why are our stakeholders very often female? First off, women are more empathetic. They care more. They have higher EQs, and I think they care about things that lots of guys don’t care about.
So when it comes to culture and the execution of it, sure there are a number of men who certainly are leaders in that area. But they are, in many ways, not the usual model.
PP: As a guy who specializes in helping companies embrace and adopt change, what’s energy’s prognosis for the future? How likely are we to make the cultural shifts necessary to thrive?
Jason: Here’s the thing about energy: There’s huge economic impact. Civilization is driven by it. So as long as everyone’s making some money, it doesn’t feel like there’s a huge incentive to change. The status quo is just fine. So the question is, where will change come from?
It reminds me a lot of the railroad business. In the late 1800s, the railroads ruled the world. The guys that owned the railroads were the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs of their time, and right under their noses came Henry Ford and automobiles. And within a generation, the entire playing field had changed.
I just wonder, with oil and gas, is it going to be a replay of the railroads? Will they be like so many other industries that, before they knew it, were out of business? What impact would a 20 or 30 percent reduction in demand have on economics, if and when alternative energy really hits stride?
The culture conversation might only start after a disruptive event.
Jason: This thing called ‘culture’ popped up because people are desperately seeking more connection and more meaning in what they do every day. That’s why you’ve seen the huge groundswell around entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you get personal sovereignty and you get to see real impact from your work. There are so many industries where you turn up every day and never see benefit of your contribution.
What we see is this new approach to what work means and giving people a new relationship to it. And people are more than happy to deeply commit to something they see as worthwhile.
A compounding factor is that technology has made the world a much more transparent place, so companies that don’t treat their people well or connect their people to meaningful work can develop a reputation of being really bad employers. The only way to fix that is to change the culture. So, you have leaders now who are understanding that if you want to hire great people and keep them, the way you’re going to do that is by making your business an attractive place to work. It’s not about the money.
Then the question becomes, ‘How do you do that?’ And then it starts to get interesting.