And since then, signs of a more diversified workplace have not been forthcoming. Data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency published last year shows women make up just 24 per cent of jobs in the gas, electricity and water services industries while in the mining sector, that figure drops to about 14 per cent.
More recently still, Engineers Australia’s December 2014 assessment on the state of the industry shows that there are almost four times more male resources engineers operating than women.
But the daunting figures are not what prompted Ms Mendez to first start Women in Oil and Gas Australia (WIOG) – a group dedicated to encouraging young females to explore careers in the sector.
Ms Mendez says it all starts with encouraging young girls at high school level to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
“Increasing our presence in schools has seen more and more girls taking up those STEM subjects at high school and increase the pool of women qualified to work in energy, technology, construction, and oil and gas. Definitely through doing those subjects they will be able to inspire others to take the same leap because they will probably be the role models one day too,” Ms Mendez says.
The Office of the Chief Scientist of Australia last year examined the current and future state of high school and tertiary STEM subjects. According to the Chief Scientist, all subjects except entry mathematics either lay stagnant or saw declines in student take-up rates between 1992 and 2012. This occurred against a backdrop of increasing demand for science- and mathematicsrelated professions in Australia.
“Taking up STEM subjects at a school level will undoubtedly promote your thinking in the resources sectors and will provide role models in the technical professions,” Ms Mendez says.
“And having better representation of girls at school level education will certainly help drive more women to progress through operational roles. In Western Australia there is particular ongoing demand for people in operational roles. It is hard enough to get the male professionals into the industry let alone women. Women with the same skills and training can certainly help meet this demand.”
WE NEED MORE WOMEN IN THE PIPELINE
Ms Mendez’s career has seen her work for some of the biggest players in Australia and sit on the board of the Zonta House Women’s Refuge and the Society of Petroleum Engineers WA.