As an organisation that incorporates both men and women’s perspectives, AXIS Network is promoting the concept of ‘better gender balance for better business’ in the industry. Wireline caught up with one of the co-founders Jenny Junnier.
It was when Jenny Junnier returned to work after becoming a mum in 2008 that the issue of gender balance and her role in cultivating diversity and supporting her peers really began to crystallise in her mind.
“Until then I’d been largely oblivious to the issue, but when I got back to work I started to think about what I wanted to do next,” she explains. “I began to see the value of becoming a role model: a professional person, determined to realise my potential in my career while also being a parent. I began to research the issue of gender diversity and joined a women’s network at my then employer.”
Now an Aberdeen-based senior audit manager at Deloitte, she believes it is a no-brainer that “with better gender diversity and balance you get better business”. It is this ethos that forms the bedrock of the Aberdeen X-Industry Support (AXIS) Network that she co-founded in 2014.
At that time, the fledgling network initially involved just a few like-minded individuals, but since then has grown to a membership of more than 600 people from 160 organisations. The group’s drive is to achieve gender balance in the workplace and to pursue very practical measures to achieve that goal. Its activities include networking and development events as well as role model/mentoring programmes. It also provides a personal support environment and an online community forum.
One of the key features of the network is that it isn’t a women-only environment – there are two men on the committee and around 20 per cent of the membership is male. “We’re trying to make the industry a better place for both men and women to work in. It has to work well for both genders if it’s going to work at all,” notes Jenny. “We share a passion for making a difference and while we’re proud to have achieved a great deal, we believe we can do even more. We always want people selected on the basis of the best person for the job. Improving the gender balance means more emphasis on targeting women to encourage them to apply for roles. It also means supporting women inside organisations and developing a pipeline of talented women, so there are more potential applicants.””
The issue of gender balance was not yet front of mind for Jenny when she graduated in business studies from Sheffield Hallam University in 1998.
Originally from Blyth in Northumberland, Jenny had by then already secured a training contract with EY in Aberdeen. She’d opted to move north to join her husband-to-be, whose family were based in the north-east of Scotland.
“I chose audit as a specialism because it interested me. Being project based, the work involves going out to clients, understanding their accounts and business processes – this gives me work variety I enjoy.”
She quickly fell in love with life in Aberdeen – and the energy industry – since settling in the city. “I immediately had the sense that Aberdeen has the best of a lot of worlds – it has everything that comes with city life, but it’s also a big town with a community feel to it, while offering the chance to enjoy the seaside and the countryside.”
Jenny worked her way up to the role of senior manager, with an almost exclusive focus on oil and gas clients while also supporting in-house training and learning and development.
In 2014, she sought to broaden her horizons – as well as her knowledge of oil and gas – by moving into the industry itself. She spent time in senior accounting and financial roles with Subsea 7 and the Centurion Group before returning to professional services taking up her present-day role with Deloitte in April 2017. Here, she remains primarily focused on oil and gas.
“I gained invaluable experience from working in the industry, but I wanted to come back into practice and take my career to the next level. In my current post, I am focused on developing the people in my team to perform the most effective, efficient audits ensuring we provide the best quality service to our clients. And, as part of a global firm, I have access to a vast and diverse group of colleagues who provide a range of advice and services to clients, including those who have been supporting the industry through the recent challenging environment.”
“Our male participants have made a proactive contribution from the outset, offering a different perspective on the core workplace issues for women as well as those areas that equally relate to men including flexible working and achieving a work/life balance.”
That perspective positions her well to lead the AXIS Network, which has become a significant part of her life.
Back in 2013, the women’s network at EY, her place of work at the time, had considered extending its activities into the wider industry. “We began to look for women in senior posts in oil and gas – women who were CEOs, partners, directors and the like – and we really struggled to find many,” says Jenny.
However, things took a decisive turn in their favour at the Offshore Europe 2013 event. Jenny went along to a Women in Industry lunch which was attended by Princess Anne. The Princess Royal was supporting a campaign to encourage more females into the industry. “It was very well attended, and I remember sitting there thinking ‘this is amazing – we’re really talking about this’. There was a real buzz and it confirmed to me that this was something we needed to take forward.”
It was the catalyst for a meeting in January 2014 that proved to be the first step in establishing the AXIS Network. There were around 15 people who attended, including engineers and women involved in professional services, administration and business development. “One of things that quickly became clear was that the issue of gender balance wasn’t about one company or one discipline – it cut across the entire industry,” notes Jenny.
Over subsequent months, a seven-strong committee worked out a vision, strategy and charter, and the network was formally launched. It has gone on to secure support from several industry organisations and collaborates with other like-minded groups.
“The AXIS Network has a vision of ‘a prosperous and sustainable Aberdeen energy industry with equal gender diversity’. There are a lot of good people in the industry whose voices aren’t always heard and some great people who have left that we need to get back.”
Jenny notes that the oil price drop in 2014 initially worked against AXIS as industry inevitably had to prioritise its response to the changing economics. However, as the sector resets and places a premium upon collaboration, Jenny believes AXIS is a great example of that principle in action.
“One of the things we’re really proud of is that the network shows how collaboration can make a difference. Our male participants, for example, have made a proactive contribution from the outset, offering a different perspective on the core workplace issues for women as well as those areas that equally relate to men including flexible working and achieving a work/life balance.”
Jenny continues: “The AXIS Network has a vision of a prosperous and sustainable Aberdeen energy industry with equal gender diversity. There are a lot of good people in the industry whose voices aren’t always heard and some great people who have left that we need to get back. The AXIS Network aims to find those voices and work within the industry to increase the diversity of thought needed to encourage innovation, creativity and the collaboration required for future success. The numbers now involved in the network and the profile attained are now helping to drive the message.”
And while AXIS is focused on the retention, progression and return of women within the industry, it is also working alongside organisations such as WISE, the Energy Institute Young Professionals Network and the Society of Petroleum Engineers, which encourage girls and young women into the industry.
“The gender pay gap focus is not only providing hard data, but it’s also getting people talking about the issue. They’re asking themselves the question, what is driving that pay difference?”
Pays to be transparent
Recent legislation that means companies with over 250 employees must publish details of any pay gap between male and female employees is increasing the spotlight on groups like AXIS. “This is a hot topic right now,” says Jenny. “The gender pay gap focus is not only providing hard data, but it’s also getting people talking about the issue. They’re asking themselves the question, what is driving that pay difference?”
The AXIS Network is now planning its next moves, which could involve extending its reach into other industries in the Aberdeen area to help achieve the wider goal of sustainable employment in the region in the long term.
The work of Jenny and her network colleagues has already been acknowledged: she travelled to the House of Commons in 2017 to collect the Women’s Business Council’s Getting On award – presented to those who help women enhance their careers.
“It was amazing to be recognised. The council is a national organisation, but has looked at the work we’re doing in Aberdeen and felt it merited recognition.”
Find the AXIS Network here.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue.