NPR

Big Oil Has A Diversity Problem

The business wants to attract more women and minorities, but a history of racism and sexism makes that difficult.
Workers pull pipes from an oil well in 2016 near Crescent, Okla. The oil industry wants to attract a new, more diverse generation of workers, but a history of racism and sexism makes that difficult. Source: J Pat Carter

The U.S. oil industry is trying to find a new generation of workers in a country that is becoming more diverse. But a history of sexism and racism is making that difficult.

The oil industry has struggled to solve its diversity problem despite having some big advantages. It's a wealthy industry accustomed to taking on complicated challenges (think deep-water offshore drilling and fracking). And oil and gas companies already have decades of experience operating all over the world in various environments. Still, the diversity problem persists.

"The racism in this job, it's unreal"

In the mid-1980s the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tried to address one large case of racism and sexism involving a union — Pipeliners Local 798 based in Tulsa, Okla. The union is a big player in the pipeline construction business. It dispatches welders and their helpers to large projects across much of the U.S.

Attorney Bob Harwin, who argued the Pipeliners case on behalf of the EEOC, says the case still stands out for him. He is now retired after 37 years at the commission.

"This was just the most blatant discrimination on a large scale that I can recall seeing since

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