Gender Bar yet to be Broken in the Oil and Gas Upstream Sector – Owolabi
Damilola Owolabi calls the shots at Dreg Waters Petroleum. A business-inclined mind from years stretching back to her University days, she shares in this interview with Orient Energy Review (OER) her humble beginnings when she incorporated ‘Dammie Mkova Boat’ and today as a big-league industry player.
OER: Can you take us through the journey leading to the establishment of Dreg Waters Petroleum?
Owolabi: I have always been a business-oriented person. During my university days, I was engaged in the business of buying and selling virtually everything legal to my colleagues, which made them nick named my room ‘Dami’s Plaza.
After School in 2011, I saw an opportunity in the beauty business and incorporated a business name which was called ‘Dammie Mkova Boat’. It was a highly saturated market in Nigeria and as most small businesses often face in the first year of operation, an accumulation of environmental factors and low pool of income, resulted in the company’s early demise.
In the year 2013, I was introduced into the oil and gas sector by a friend who complained about the difficulties involved in procuring his importation licence from Department of Petroleum Resources. Sensing a business opportunity despite not having any prior experience in this field, I researched on the various licences and permits on the Department of Petroleum Resources’ website and after acquiring requisite knowledge, I processed the relevant permit within a short period of time. With this success, I requested him to refer other clients having the same challenge which he did and that was how Dreg Waters was formed.
To further develop this idea, I enrolled for business management and entrepreneurial course which helped put my passion in the right direction of incorporating Dreg Waters in 2014. In addition to this, the need for self development was further inundated by my enrolment at the Lagos Business School in 2015 and subsequent certification in 2016.
What has been your primary motivation?
I am very passionate about seeing a project through till the end. In simple terms, I am a very determined person who doesn’t give up easily. So, I would say my motivation has been the drive and thirst for success and desire to be different in everything I do including my business.
At 25 years of age, you have made considerable accomplishments. What would you say has been the most rewarding thus far?
Since incorporation in 2014, Dreg Waters clientele size has increased significantly and this has always been based on referrals. It ultimately gives me a sense of satisfaction and purpose that our clients have reposed such trust and confidence in us, enough to recommend and profess our high praises.
As a woman in the industry, what have been your biggest challenges?
As we often find, women are under-represented in this industry and so the few representatives we have are not likely to be taken seriously. Majorly, my challenge would be proving my capacity to function and perform exceptionally high beyond client’s expectation while being a woman.
Where do you see women playing a greater role in the Nigerian petroleum industry, worldwide in the next few years?
The Nigerian petroleum industry, in the upstream has quite a number of women as technical staff. What is not happening enough is getting to the C-Suite. In government, we have had a female Minister of Petroleum, who in fact came from the industry – Diezani Allison Madueke. She was an executive director at Shell before she was appointed a minister in 2010.
But it is still not the mainstream issue. When it is a multinational company, either upstream or downstream, the chances are slim for a woman at the CEO level. But look carefully; out of about 20 Nigerian E&P independents producing oil, women are CEOs of three with two of them actually owning the companies. For example, Famfa Oil is owned by Folorunso Alakija and Britannia U by Uju ifejika while Seinye Lulu Brigs, who essentially runs MONI PULO is married to the company’s founder O. B. Lulu Briggs. The gender bar is essentially broken in the downstream where several companies are being run by women.
Nigeria does far better than the average oil industry count worldwide. Efundoyin Akinyanju opened the Schlumberger operations in East Africa. She is a Nigerian professional and she is now currently the Head of West Africa for GE Oil and Gas. Still, I agree it is a largely male- dominated industry. The examples I gave are mostly freak occurrences and I think that there needs to be far more advocacy.