IWD 2021: Interview with Funmi Ogbue

The Zigma LTD Founder and MD shares her experiences of creating a female-dominated oilfield services provider.

Funmi is the founder and Managing Director of Zigma. After decades working with multinational organisations in the oil and gas sector including Abacan, Nexen and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCO) she established Zigma.
She is also President of Women in Energy Network (WIEN), an association dedicated to closing the gender gap within the energy sector.

What drew you to a career in the traditionally male-dominated energy sector?
I joined the industry right after University, working for Abacan Resources, a Canadian Oil Company, as their first employee in Nigeria. As a young girl, I didn’t realise it was male dominated, novel or indeed difficult. My first mentor, Tunde Folawiyo, who at the time introduced me to Abacan also made it quite easy for me to grow. He provided me with strong professional and emotional support and made me feel like I could accomplish anything I set my mind to do.
Describe your leadership style in just a few sentences.
I love the servant leadership methodology which essentially helped me to realise we are all leaders no matter where we find ourselves. From a very young age, I have felt responsible for results on a wide range of issues personally and in the workplace. I have also felt responsible for the wellbeing and performance of those people along my path.
How has COVID-19 impacted gender diversity in both O&G and the wider energy sector in Africa? Is there opportunity for women in this moment of adversity?
I believe that COVID-19 has impacted everyone, male and female, in a major way emotionally, physically and mentally. To thrive we have to come together to support and care for each other. Of course, I believe women are traditionally more nurturing and have innate abilities to multitask, so we need to rise up now more than ever and take our place in the leadership of our continent. In the energy industry, I am encouraging women in my network to look carefully at the energy transition and take a position in any segment along the value chain. I see a new horizon emerging and women can take advantage now. COVID-19 has been a leveller and women should be able to emerge with significant opportunities in the post-pandemic world where climate change, renewable energy discourse will take centre stage.
Globally, why do so many women still seem to struggle to make it past middle management to reach senior leadership roles – particularly in the energy sector?
I think making babies, raising families, post-partum depression, menopausal issues and geographical difficulties are real issues for women between the ages of 30-50 and these are the years when people are expected to rise into more senior leadership positions. These create a lot of instability for women and then when it’s time to come back they have absences the workplace cannot accommodate. I do think entrepreneurship and diversity in the supply chain might be the solution to this and I commend the work that ExxonMobil and We Connect International are doing to promote supplier diversity. I encourage more corporates to get onboard with this effort as it would allow more women to stay engaged whilst still having the flexibility they absolutely require at those stages in their lives. Thereafter they can come back into board positions and contribute. After all, diversity in the board room makes for better financial results in organisations.
What is your view on “positive discrimination initiatives”, or the use of hiring quotas in achieving gender parity?
I think there is certainly unconscious bias in hiring and decision-making and so I absolutely support quotas for this reason.
How is your company working to attract the best young – especially female – talent to work in oil and gas?
My organisation, Zigma, has a 60% female workforce. We do our best to support them from marriage through to when they are making babies and have young families. Also, as President of the Women in Energy Network we partner with funding agencies and corporates to develop female talent at secondary and graduate levels. I also personally speak at graduate programmes and conferences to encourage ladies to come into our industry.
Linked to this, what is the number one characteristic you look for in new hires?
I look for interest, passion and strong logical capabilities. I absolutely love mathematics graduates and would hire them any day for their strong logic skills.

Are you interested in getting involved in the D&I conversation in the oil and gas sector? Join AOW Accelerates: Diversity & Inclusion at AOW 2021. Register here.

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