The Oilfield: Not Just for Men

Audrey Castoreno
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND/ODESSA: Gone are the days where the only so called "roughnecks" you see in the oil business are male. This second wave oil boom we're seeing has opened up opportunities.

Women are the new face making a name for themselves in the oil industry.

"You know women just thinking outside the box now when it comes to making good career and technical choices now. You see women looking at it as it's a good time to make good wages out there to support my family," Willie Taylor Chief Executive Officer at Workforce Solutions, said.

Back in the boom of the 80's women, although few and rare were a part of the oil industry. So why now are more and more women are look at oil and gas as an option?

"Simply because when you look at our total workforce population we're seeing and increase in females into our civilian workforce population, 52% women versus 48% male. I think the field is wide open for them. They ought to take advantage of those opportunities," Taylor said.

One of those women who figured out early on to take advantage of what's under her feet is Nicki Turnbow. Nicki started back in the 80's roughing out there with the boys. Digging ditches and learning all she could about the oil industry.

"I was seeking employment because I knew that's where the money was," Nicki Turnbow, President of Expert Pumping Unit Service, said.

Nicki worked her way up the ranks and opened her own pumping unit service company in 1990.

"It's been rewarding. It's been tough. There's been a lot of blood sweat and tears," Turnbow said.

She remembers the days when a woman in oil and gas was a rarity and working next to your male counterpart was sometimes a challenge.

"I felt like at times it was difficult. Maybe because I was not perceived as maybe a man, but once people feel like you know what you're talking about, I think it doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman," Turnbow said.

Another one of those women making a name for herself on the safety side is Krisha Marker. She also knows all too well the sometimes challenges the business can bring when it comes to being a woman.

"We've come from having to prove ourselves, and having to work just a little harder, to prove we can do it," Krisha Marker, with MM Safety and Consulting, said.

She too however has seen the change in oil and gas.

The one time, thought to be dainty women, like herself, not scare to get a little dirty in order to dip their hands into the pot.

"Dainty is not. If you want to be dainty, you're going to be working in an office somewhere. Things have changed. Women have evolved into this industry and you see more women who have made lives for themselves," Marker said.

She and Nicki say they are proud to have made it through those trying times and to now to stand out and to be somewhat of a rarity in the business.

"For the most part, I think people are proud because it's kind of a representation of the female world and that they can do it too," Turnbow said.

However, these women have worked their way out of the rougher side of the business.

So how are things now for women working side by side other men?

RJ Vera is one of those women who does just that.  She says it's still rare to see other women doing some of those oil and gas jobs.

"You rarely see other women. It's more in the office. They think it's a man's job so the women don't go out there. Me personally I'm going to go out there where the money's at," Oil Field Worker, RJ Vera, said.

Just like Nicki and Krisha, RJ says like any job that is male driven it has it's challenges when first starting.

"They're kind of standoff-ish towards you. Plus there's a lot of HR issues. A lot of men have to be on their P's and Q's. You get your respect. You put your foot down and let them know, 'I'm here to work.' I'm not male or female. I'm your coworker here to get a job done and go home," Vera said.

But once you get past that, RJ says this job is one she would never leave.

All these women you've heard from describe the oil industry as a family and despite oil and gas still being male driven. Women are here to stay.