Members Talk Back

Title: Members Talk Back

Publication: The Outcrop, Nov. 2006, p. 7

Editors’ note: The following letters were received in response to the President’s column in the August issue of the Outcrop titled “Where are the girls?”

Thanks for your very good column on the absence of women geologists in industry. For over 10 years, I have noticed that in spite of graduates being about 50% women, the number of women in AAPG has remained about 10%…the same as it was 25 years ago. In fact it was brought to my attention by John Seitz when he was President of Anadarko…he cited “retention” as their number one employment problem.

Five years ago, at leadership days, because of Seitz’s comments, I put together a Break Out Session at AAPG Leadership Days on the subject of Women and Minorities in AAPG. It was an excellent session and as a result, we started the Membership Subcommittee on Women and Minorities in AAPG.

One result of this session was for the Association of Women Geoscientists and the National Association of Black Geologists and Geophysicists to formally be invited and to become “Affiliated” societies with AAPG. Another thing I have pushed for, but not made happen yet, is to conduct a CEO and President level Retreat with representatives from all majors, large independents, and independents discussing this retention issue. They would be hearing feedback from women in the industry in an effort to establish some guidelines for future retention of women. I haven’t managed to get this done yet, but it is still on my “to do” list.

Recently, the Subcommittee on Women and Minorities at AAPG has not been very active, but Margie Chan, University of Utah, started another AAPG initiative and held a wonderful half day session at the AAPG in Houston particularly focused on women and careers in geology and the industry which followed the “Women as Leaders in the E&P Industry: Challenges and Opportunities” half day session that Jeff Lund and I chaired (wish you could have heard these incredible women!) Margie continues to work on this for AAPG as chair of the new AAPG ad hoc committee (AAPG PROWESS – Professional Women in Earth Sciences),
Check out the Powerpoint presentation from the Leadership Conference at, as well as well as Margie Chan’s Committee and report: and prowess/index. cfm.

A story I have told about a geologist who made a difference for women: Jack Parker, past President of RMAG and AAPG, decided when he took the AAPG office in 1982 that women were under-represented in AAPG’s leadership. Women, like today, made up about 10% of the membership but were not visible on committees, did not chair any committees and had not been on any of the Executive Committees or in the Division leadership. Jack, as only he could do, put out a mandate to all committees to bring women onto their committees and to do it NOW! I was asked to serve on a committee and within 4 years was chair of that committee. Many other women were asked, and served…and soon we were well incorporated into the leadership. In fact, in spite of still only being about 10% of the membership, women have ranged up to 28% of committee makeup, and sometimes have held 25% of the chairs. All because Jack Parker became ‘aware.’

Maybe your ‘awareness’ will stimulate some additional movement toward retention of women in the industry. When Pete Rose and I were discussing this last year, he made an interesting and apropos comment…”this is not a women’s issue at all, this is a WORKFORCE issue that must be resolved to the benefit of our industry.” I agree.

–Robbie Gries

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your August Outcrop article, “Where are the girls?” I thought it was very insightful, and I read through it twice. It really hit home for me…my degree is in geology, and I’ve been working in oil and gas for 25 years now. I have two daughters of my own in high school; both are interested in majoring in science when they go to college. I sometimes think there were more women at work when I started out in 1981 than there are now, and it is not what I expected. At any rate, thanks for writing it; I enjoyed reading it.

–Mary Sue Purcell