Inspiring women to lead in the energy sector and industry at large to improve the imbalance of representation, is an ambition to be realised by all, according to Mariam Kane-Garcia, the newly appointed CEO and Managing Director of Total South Africa.
She wants to encourage and inspire people to push the boundaries of possibility, regardless of the minority groups they belong to; while at the same time emphasising the importance of not doing so at the expense or the credibility of minority groups, specifically women in leadership.
She lives with the conviction that a diverse workforce and management team drives the competitiveness of the business, the ability to innovate, the ability to attract opportunities and their social license to operate.
“At Total, we enable all our employees to develop their professional skills and advance in their career without discrimination of any kind.”
However, the presence of women leadership in the energy sector is still insufficient, despite progress. The ‘Global Energy Talent Index Report 2020’, found that women make up only 8% of the workforce in the global oil & gas sector, 9% in each of the petrochemical and power sectors, 12% in the nuclear sector, and 15% in the renewables sector.
Furthermore, says the report, only 17% of women (of an already small pool) are placed on leadership training programmes, compared to 22% of men. And the fact that women have shown preference to training, learning and development suggests that they’re still coming up against a glass ceiling and are eager for opportunities to smash through it.
Mariam emphasises that there is an opportunity for all in tackling the imbalance and being catalysts for change instead of casualties for change. Diversity is a key performance lever for success and both men and women have a critical role to play in realising much change to rebalance industries. The task is not to shoulder the typical roles assigned in industry, but for women and men to interlink as the connective fibre that will materialise the successful growth of industries in a notable way, as well as the economy.
The reasons for women’s underrepresentation in the sector are complex. There are historical factors. Even today, research suggest that young girls are not encouraged to eye careers in what is considered a technical, or masculine industry.
With that in mind, it’s critical that women pursue and embrace the opportunities that come their way, says Mariam Kane-Garcia, who is the first woman to hold the senior position at Total South Africa. “Total offered me a managed career path and I seized these opportunities successfully,” she says.
This reciprocal relationship with Total has kept Kane-Garcia with the company for nearly 20 years. She grew up in West Africa – Mauritania and Côte d’Ivoire – and attended the ESCP Business School in Paris. She joined Total shortly after finishing at the ESCP in 2001, and has held a series of positions in finance, strategy, and business development at group offices in France, the UK, Singapore and Vietnam. In 2019, she moved to South Africa as Executive Vice President for marketing and services Southern Africa, and as CEO and Managing Director of Total South Africa.
As a vocal champion for diversity and inclusivity, she feels strongly that women should be represented, not as a minority, but because they are deserving. This will ensure that the wrong message is not sent and that it does not dilute the impact of their performance in achieving their status.
Not only do women have to be placed in more leadership positions, but they also need more exposure to technical roles, starting with education and vocational training.
Total South Africa is committed to long term partnerships within the communities in which it operates and has partnered with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Female Entrepreneurship Awards since 2003. Total South Africa also supports other talent linked initiatives like Buskaid and Afrika Tikkun, to create shared value and ensure the development of women at grassroots.
In 2006, the company created its own Total Women Initiative for Communication and Exchange (TWICE) Network as a platform to help women find their way and fulfil their potential in the company, and Kane-Garcia herself set up the Twice Network for Total UK’s upstream operations.
When it comes to gender equality, both women and men have to contribute.
We stand to benefit from women and men’s unique contributions to truly propel the energy sector forward. We need to create solutions with a business model as to not simply place a band-aid on issues but rather create sustainable solutions with a long-term commitment to solve and defy barriers.
She concludes that, “If we are more inclusive, we are more connected; and if we are more diverse, we are more creative in solving the challenges we face.”