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Women tackle rig work (and bias) in oil industry

May 29, 2013: 11:29 AM ET

katie mills

Katie Mills, a petroleum engineer for Schlumberger, is part of a large number of women taking high skilled jobs in the oil industry.

On Tuesday, CNNMoney ran a story on how women are landing a big share of new jobs in the oil and gas industry -- 46% according to one recent survey.

One expert said he thought most women are gravitating toward more brainy jobs like geologist or engineer, as well as jobs in offices. Anecdotal evidence suggests that's true -- the woman we profiled worked as a liaison between engineers and rig builders before moving on to a finance job at a maker of drilling equipment.

On Wednesday we heard from another young woman, this time a petroleum engineer working on a rig off the coast of Mexico.

"I run the measurement and directional tools that tell us where we are as we drill and also send us information about the rock that we're drilling through," said Katie Mills, a 25-year-old engineer at the oil field services firm Schlumberger (SLB). "We use these tools to steer the well and place it within a couple meters of our target."

Mills, a petroleum engineering graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, was introduced to the oil industry at a young age -- both her parents are in the business.

She loves working with all the technology and the challenges involved with extracting oil and gas, and saw from an early age the opportunities for travel and cultural immersion that the industry affords.

"My dad's company paid for me to go to a Swiss boarding school," she said. "How many other industries will do that?"

Still, she said it can be tough for a woman in this male-dominated field. She said she often gets hit on by male co-workers, and that some still don't take her seriously.

"I had a [client] once who told me 'I know better than to trust the word of a woman,'" she said. "It can be exhausting to try and move through what is still very much a man's world."

Despite this, and the long hours, Mills loves her work. She said encouraging more girls to study math and science at a young age might steer more women into the industry.

"I had an early encounter with the oil and gas industry and grew up with positive perceptions of what the industry is and could do for me," she said. "Today I can't imagine changing industries, and hope more women consider this field in the future as well."

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