Blog & Events

My Life as a Women in Petroleum Engineering

April 15, 2013

by Ngozi Lawanson, Junior Petroleum Engineering student

Picture of Ngozi Lawanson smiling

Since I began college as a Petroleum Engineering student, I've been privy to many questions and remarks regarding my major. What is Petroleum Engineering? Why did you choose it? You're going to make the big bucks. I have answers that I could probably recite in my sleep. However, there is a popular question that I've yet to find an answer to: what's it like to be a woman Petroleum Engineer? I've searched and given a myriad of answers to this question, but none seem adequate in describing what it feels like to be a woman studying Petroleum Engineering.

The oil and gas industry is still known to be very male-dominated, especially for drilling engineers who get the extreme pleasure of living on a drill site for extended periods. This male dominance is not lost on me, as I see mainly men in all of my petroleum classes and the ratio of men to women in Petroleum at UT is far from 50/50. I assume most people are asking for this answer: yes, I do feel like I stand out as a female petroleum engineer-in-the-making.

But this answer scratches the surface. Yes, I feel I stand out as a woman but not only for the reason stated above. If anything, I feel like a pioneer like I'm making a difference in what people think of when they hear  Petroleum Engineer. Ultimately, I feel I stand out as a woman, because I'm a part of one of the most amazing groups of women I'll ever have the pleasure of associating with. I've met so many amazing women studying Petroleum Engineering at UT and women in the industry who make me proud of my gender. 

The women in this major are intelligent, motivated, and gracious. Besides being amazing students and future engineers, they participate in other activities. They're well-rounded and make time to do things they need to do as well as things they love to do. It's easy for engineers to go to school and then go home; they have a lot on their plates! But the women I've met never seem to adapt that mindset. They're in sororities and other social organizations.  They're in ethnic organizations.  They play sports.  They pursue other majors, minors, and certificates.  They always make time for fun. The resolve the girls have to make their lives the best they can be inspires me to be a better person as well.

The women in this major are so inspiring that we've started a Women in Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (WPGE) organization. It's been amazing to grow the organization, leave my mark, and show how privileged I am to be considered a part of this group.

Ngozi Lawanson is a Junior Petroleum Engineering student and President of the Women in Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (WPGE).