Parution – Gaslighted. How the Oil and Gas Industry Shortchanges Women Scientists (Christine L. Williams)

Christine L. Williams, professeure de sociologie à l’Université du Texas à Austin, a enquêté pendant plus de dix ans au sein de l’industrie pétrolière et gazière. Elle a cherché à comprendre pourquoi les femmes sont si peu présentes au sein de cette industrie, largement blanche et masculine. Dans ce livre, publié aux presses universitaires de Californie en octobre 2021, elle montre les difficultés pour les femmes à rester dans l’industrie surtout lors des périodes de récession, et révèle un décalage entre les discours sur l’inclusion et la diversité et les pratiques réelles des entreprises de l’industrie. 

About the Book

The oil and gas industry is one of the richest and most powerful industries in the world. In recent years, company avowals in support of diversity, much-touted programs for “women in STEM,” and, most importantly, a tight labor market with near parity in women pursuing geoscience credentials might lead us to expect progress for women in this industry’s corporate ranks. Yet, for all the talk of “the great crew change,” the industry remains overwhelmingly white and male. Sociologist Christine L. Williams asks, where are the women?

To answer this question, Williams embarked on a decade-long investigation—one involving one hundred in-depth interviews, a longitudinal survey, and ethnographic research—that allowed her to observe the industry in times of boom and bust. She found that when the industry expands, women may be able to walk through the door, but when the industry contracts, the door becomes a revolving one, whirling ever faster, as companies retreat to their white male core. These gendered outcomes are obscured by firms’ stated commitments to diversity in hiring and the language of merit. The result is organizational gaslighting, a radical dissonance between language and practice that Williams exposes for all.

About the Author

Christine L. Williams is Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Inside Toyland and Still a Man’s World.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1. Gender, Geology, and the Oil and Gas Industry
2. The Oil and Gas Pipeline
3. The Stayers
4. Voluntary Separations
5. Corporate Downsizing
6. Organizational Gaslighting

Methodological Appendix 
Illustration Credits


“Christine Williams’s book provides a compelling exploration of why the ‘leaky pipeline’ is a poor metaphor to explain persistent low gender and racial diversity in the oil and gas industry. It reveals how corporate practices lead to stark inequities not only in recruitment but also in employee retention after hiring. Gaslighted provides lessons for both industry and academia to evaluate how organizational culture and actions can contribute to demoralizing work environments.”—Erika Marin-Spiotta, Professor of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Fellow of the American Geophysical Union 

“If companies care so much about diversity and inclusion, why are they making so little progress? Williams provides a compelling answer—employees, the public, and academic researchers are gaslighted by the diversity statements, diversity training, and diversity celebrations when none of these shiny objects alters the fundamental reason why progress is so slow. As Williams shows in her decade-long study of the oil and gas industry, during periods of downsizing, it is mostly young white men who keep their jobs, while everyone else faces heightened job insecurity. True corporate commitment to change will require changing employment practices so that no they longer advantage those already in positions of power.”—Shelley Correll, Professor of Sociology and Director of VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, Stanford University

“Despite major advances for women in professions like law and medicine over recent decades, many STEM fields remain stubbornly male-dominated. In this riveting, deeply researched study of the US oil and gas industry, Williams helps us understand why. Despite touting their commitment to ‘diversity’ and regularly recruiting women geoscientists—albeit on a racially exclusive basis—during boom periods, oil and gas companies disproportionately lay off those same women during industry downturns. Moreover, the few survivors of such downsizing confront a toxic workplace culture that is pervaded by sexist stereotypes and blatant hostility to motherhood. Yet protests are rare amid the constant threat of future layoffs. This sobering book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of gender equality in the workplace.”—Ruth Milkman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center, and author of On Gender, Labor, and Inequality

“Christine Williams suffuses the text with an outrage that reminds us that these are human beings at the center of this story.”—Allison Pugh, author of The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity

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