Making an Impact: Women at Range

Sep 22, 2015

At a time when employers are examining each hire carefully – having a network in place is critical for women who are seeking new opportunities in the energy industry. That was the message Range’s Marcellus Shale Division Counsel Erin McDowell shared with the audience at a recent panel discussion sponsored by the Women’s Energy Network (WEN), the Keystone Energy Forum, and the American Petroleum Institute. The event was titled "Opportunities for Women in Energy: The Voice of Experience”. 

For Erin, a key message she wanted to get across to the women who attended was this, “First, develop your niche – based on your interests, your personality, and where you excel. Once you find your niche – grow a network of people who can help you identify opportunities, people who can be your mentors. And after that – continue to maintain your network as inevitably new opportunities will arise whether for you or for others in your network”.

The formula Erin shared with the women who attended the recent panel discussion played an important role in her own success as an attorney in the energy industry.  Erin's been with Range since January 2015, prior to that, she was with the law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott for 10 years. It was during that time that Erin carved out her niche, developing a focus on oil and gas. And initially – that focus caught her by surprise. "I grew up here…I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.  But I never considered the oil and gas industry because it was not a major part of the local job market at that time. My interests were primarily focused around economic policy, the environment and the law. With the growth of the oil and gas industry here in Western Pennsylvania, my interests naturally aligned with many aspects of the developing shale plays. Now, with the Marcellus shale play in development mode, there are so many different options within the energy industry as a whole. People who grew up here now have this opportunity." And it's an opportunity Erin knows will be available not only to her young son, but to her two young daughters as well, as the energy industry continues to welcome women to its workforce. 

As the energy industry in the United States continues to evolve, so too do opportunities for women in what was once thought of as a primarily male-dominated workforce. And the work they’re doing in the energy industry is getting attention.

Click here to see how Range has partnered with Young Professional Women in Energy.

NatalyaA recent profile in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette referred to Planning Staff Engineer at Range Natalya Sachivichik as having “blazed a trail for female oil engineers”. It’s an accurate description. Natalya grew up in the former Soviet Union at a time when very few women worked in the oil industry. When she decided to pursue a career as a petroleum engineer, she had to apply for one of a few, limited spots for women at the Karaganda Polytechnic Institute. She continued to face obstacles once she entered the workforce. As Natalya told the Post-Gazette:

“When I started, women were not very common in the oil industry, even at the international level. There were very basic amenities, accommodation on the rig, for example,” she said.       

Women on offshore rigs were required to book a room well in advance. “You are not allowed to share your room with a man,” Natalya said. “And there are no single rooms on a rig, so the policy in the North Sea countries — Denmark, Holland, Germany — is that you are not allowed to share a bathroom, a shower, a changing room or any sort of accommodations with a male.”

So Natalya would have to wait until another female engineer was booked. Only then could a room be assigned. It was limiting, Natalya said. She felt she was missing opportunities to see new tools and processes simply because it was too impractical to provide her with her own room on offshore rigs.

That was just one aspect.

“When I would come aboard on the offshore rig,” Natalya remembered, “I might be one of four or six women out of 80 people. Of course, you attract a lot of attention and sort of an implicit question — ‘Can she do it?’ — not openly asked because no one would ask it.”

But she felt the pressure. And she delivered.

In 2012 Natalya, her husband and her children moved to Pittsburgh and in 2014, she accepted a job offer from Range. 

You can read more about Natalya’s journey as a petroleum engineer here:
Odysseys: Kazakhstan native blazed a trail for female oil engineers and here: Q&A: U.S. shale plays are being watched around the world.

Natalya is also dedicated to mentoring young women. She recently participated in a local “Girls in STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Conference – speaking to, interacting with and encouraging female high school and middle students in southwestern Pennsylvania.

But for more and more women, the energy industry is helping to create parity when it comes to finding a career in a STEM related field. “Opportunities that they couldn’t find elsewhere” is how one Post-Gazette story characterized the jobs currently held Field Environmental Compliance Senior Specialist Hannah McAvoy and Field Environmental Compliance Coordinator Jessica Ullom. The two women were featured in an article titled: Women find careers in energy as downstream, petchems see growth

According to the Post-Gazette story:      

…[Hannah and Jess] got into the oil and gas industry three to four years ago because it provided them with opportunities they couldn’t get elsewhere.

They’re not alone.

The number of women involved in oil and gas extraction activities has remained relatively flat in the last two decades, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, those in support activities have more than doubled with 33,900 women in those roles in June. By 2030, 185,000 women could be in oil and gas related jobs, a 2014 study from the global information company IHS reports.

Nationally, over the past 10 years, there has been a 144 percent increase in such jobs occupied by both men and women, according to the BLS. In May, there were 310,600 employees in such occupations compared to 127,200 in 2004.

Oil and gas industry jobs span activities from the well head to downstream processing and manufacturing. While the industry has career opportunities in each sector, women are slightly more involved in the downstream and petrochemical phases of production, according to the IHS study.

As far as feeling welcome in the energy industry workforce, the Post-Gazette article goes on to report:

Ms. Ullom has had other jobs where she has experienced [discrimination], but said she has not encountered that at Range.

“I think within this industry you are always going to have a couple of the old school guys who think that women aren’t supposed to be out there, but I haven’t run into anything,“ she said.

Neither has Ms. McAvoy.

“I don’t think anyone has looked at me like ‘you don’t belong here,’” Ms. McAvoy said.

In Fort Worth, Texas – Departmental Assistant for Land Darlene Hollingsworth has also been making sure that women are well represented in the oil and gas industry. Darlene has been the President of the Fort Worth Desk and Derrick Club, Region IV for the last two years, and recently spoke at the Region IV meeting and at the Association of Desk and Derrick Clubs Convention. She stresses the importance of staying connected, saying, “I think it is very important for women and men in this industry to join groups like ADDC and to network together and share information and ideas.  In the oil and gas industry, there is always a need for greater knowledge.”  Recently, Darlene received the AIMEE Award for 1st Place for the Best President’s Newsletter for Region IV. 


Director of Public Affairs Laural Ziemba has been with Range for a little over two years.  In her position, she has a unique opportunity to interact with members of the community in a very direct manner; and to immediately assess the impact of those interactions.  Laural views Range’s corporate partnership with Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania as among the most important efforts the company supports. “Over the past several years, we have been able to raise awareness of a very important cause and also pool the resources of our employees to positively impact a grassroots institution that’s been benefiting our community for decades.”  She’s also proud of the work Range is doing to engage young people in the community, specifically naming the high school mentoring programs Range sponsors through Junior Achievement and The Challenge Program as two stand-out campaigns. “To see a light go off in a young person’s mind that ‘I can do that!’ It’s very rewarding.”

Laural has worked in the energy industry for over 16 years – and hopes her experience inspires other women to believe they can do the same. “Whether we meet a young woman at a panel discussion, chamber event, a fair or festival, we are making an impression and hopefully enlightening them about the fact that – yes! Woman can and do play a leadership role in the energy industry right here in our own backyard. I was born and raised in Washington County. How fortunate am I that I can raise a family here and show my daughter that you don’t have to move to a major metropolitan area to find challenge and success? Thanks in part to my industry, you can stay right here and find everything you’re looking for.” She encourages women to network to find the right opportunity. “Meeting people and creating relationships opens doors and creates opportunities that otherwise would not have presented themselves. There’s no better way than a personal interaction to differentiate your resume from the hundreds of others.”


Savanna Hardy has been working in the oil and gas industry since 2005.  While her title is reflective of an industry that used to employ fewer women – the now Senior Landman at Range is currently pursuing a degree at California University of Pennsylvania -- taking advantage of the school’s new Bachelor of Arts and Certificate Program in Land Management. Savanna was recently featured in an article titled: As drillers pull back hiring, training programs shift focus.

“I’ve seen a lot of people from different industries getting trained out in the field,” Ms. Hardy said. “Unfortunately when you have a downturn, a lot of that work that was out in the field comes back in-house. A lot of contractors have been laid off ... That’s where having experience and having a degree mostly industry-related is very important.”

When Donna Redmon moved from Indiana to Houston, Texas right after college – she didn’t set out looking for a job in the oil industry – but that’s where she found one.  Just two days after arriving in Houston, she accepted an offer from Exxon, and began working in their Tax Department. “It was an entry level admin, tax clerk position. I was working full time and going to night school at the University of Houston to finish my accounting degree and have been in Tax ever since, both in the public realm at Price Waterhouse and at other oil and gas and energy industry companies.”

Today, Donna is VP of Tax at Range, and the President of the Fort Worth Chapter of the Tax Executives Institute. According to Donna, “One of the main focuses of the national organization this fiscal year is recruiting more young tax professionals to join.”  She says the split of men versus women is about even, but in her experience, she sees young women utilizing professional networking opportunities more than men. And as she looks back on her career in the energy industry, she has advice for young women hoping to break in. “Get involved in your local community, church or schools. I participate on the board of a local non-profit ‘Community Caring Center’ that provides food, clothing, utility bill assistance and counseling to over 500 families a month, and have found it to be a valuable way to keep myself grounded and also meet a diverse group of people in the local community whose path otherwise would not have crossed with mine. If you’re a woman – make sure you have a good handshake, and if you’re a man – shake a woman’s hand the same way you would a man! Establish yourself and grow your expertise in the industry and don’t hesitate to join professional organizations and get involved – standing out from the crowd will enable you to survive the downturns and thrive during the up cycles of the industry.”

To see more about Range's partnership with women in energy, watch our video Range Partners with YPWE