I recently received my annual election ballot from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), an organization which I’ve been a part of for almost 20 years. I was truly disappointed to see a candidate slate of six men for the three positions up for election to the Executive Committee (ExCom) this year.
AAPG has an overall representation of 18 to 20 percent female membership. This figure should be much higher, and there are efforts within the organization to achieve this, such as PROWESS, a group within AAPG dedicated to increasing participation and advancement of women in earth sciences and the energy industry. However, not even one woman (which would have accounted for ~17 percent of the candidates and hence would be commensurate with the overall membership statistics) was present on the ballot.
This made me look into the historical representation of women in AAPG leadership (ExCom), which has grown from four to eight members from 1917 to the present. When reviewing the data presented by AAPG in its 2017 Annual Report, I found that the cumulative percentage of female ExCom members since 1917 is a mere 6 percent. The first representation of female members was in 1987; since then, we’ve seen the percentage of women on the ExCom fluctuate from 0 percent to 29 percent (averaging 15 percent). The first female president wasn’t until 2001, and there have only been three in total (in 2001, 2014 and 2018).
Fortunately, the cumulative female representation since 1987 is 15 percent, which at least represents the current membership. In total, approximately 34 of the total 563 positions since 1917 have been occupied by women. However, a concerning statistic is that these 34 positions appear to have been occupied by only 14 individual women. These few trailblazers should be lauded and thanked for their service.
Groups like PROWESS and dedicated individuals within the organization (e.g. Denise Cox, the incoming president) are working hard to encourage the expansion of female representation in AAPG. Their efforts should be applauded. But we must continue to strive to close this gender disparity when it comes to both general membership and elected officers.
Stefano Mazzoni is a professional geologist working in the petroleum exploration and production industry, equality advocate, former banana slug and proud dual-career parent.