Diversity in the community
The approach taken by Tecpetrol to the issue of diversity is not only reflected in specific practices within the company, but also expands to embrace its environment. The company is promoting activities and initiatives that aim to achieve greater gender equity and foster equal opportunities.
Men and women in many communities have different roles and responsibilities, which often means that they may be affected differently by the projects being developed in their territory. Reports by the World Bank's International Finance Corporation reveal that women are often excluded from key processes in the energy industry when their participation could mitigate the risks inherent to the activity as well as benefit society as a whole. Including women in these processes can help consolidate a company’s social license to operate, ensuring that investments in the community are constructive and sustainable.
Tecpetrol's first step toward a more open, plural vision as part of its relationship with its neighbors was to foster greater diversity within its own team. “Ten years ago, the area was exclusively made up of male engineers. Today we employ equal numbers of men and women from different backgrounds, ranging from engineering, communication, and anthropology to business administration, among many other careers. Diversity in the work team enhances our ability to analyze and evaluate community concerns, creating stronger ties between the company and our neighbors,” explains Pablo Martellotta, Head of Community Relations.
One of the great challenges facing the energy industry in terms of diversity is sourcing the female component of its workforce in the areas where it operates. Tecpetrol is thus directing its efforts toward education and training for men and women through programs such as the Technical Gene program, the development of Industry 4.0 skills at technical high schools, and its Merit Awards program which recognizes academic excellence and effort by providing secondary school students with financial support. “Initially, when selecting the beneficiaries of these programs we focused solely on merit. But now we also want to ensure that our initiatives offer better education and a higher quality of life for people living in different economic and social realities. And the results of this endeavor are already apparent. Although we never set ourselves specific gender quotas, today, 60% of those taking part in the Scholarship program in Aguarague are women,” points out Andrea Soledad Fernandez, supervisor of Community Relations and Human Resources in northwestern Argentina.
Diana Rodríguez, head of Human Resources at Aguarague, adds that “there is much more interest from women in getting involved in our activity, and in playing a more prominent role in the initiatives we are supporting. For example, women are beginning to study traditionally male-dominated subjects such as Safety and Hygiene. Today, more and more young women are pursuing technical internships in our company. Women have also started to play a more active role in our Community Projects program, where we see them taking the electricity, masonry, and painting courses we hold and getting involved in building modules and bathrooms.”
Tecpetrol also organizes a number of community activities aimed at valuing women’s input in other areas. Together with Fundacion Encontrarse en la Diversidad, the company organized a training program for technical school teachers and administration staff on diversity, gender, discrimination, and inclusion. Tecpetrol has also accompanied the Asociación Amanecer in a cycle of webinars aimed at women from different areas of the community (education, health, justice, law and order, neighborhood leaders) held jointly with representatives from public entities, social organizations, and the private sphere. "These meetings have given rise to a raft of concerns and questions, so we are defining new actions that not only incorporate women into the gender discussion but also include the LGBTQI community in the area," enthuses Diana Rodríguez.
Convinced that the impact of its efforts is enhanced by being part of a network, Tecpetrol has developed alliances with other organizations and professionals in the sector. Today, is it part of the Women of Argentine Industry network (Mujeres de la Industria Argentina - MIA), driven jointly by the Argentine Industrial Union, the Industrial Union of the province of Buenos Aires (Unión Industrial de la provincia de Buenos Aires - UIPBA), and Ganar-Ganar, together with the International Labor Organization (ILO), UN Women and the European Union (EU). Their aim is to strengthen the role of women in the productive network to achieve equal opportunities in organizations. “We are proud to be members of this initiative since its inception. During the first eighteen months, we discussed the best ways of working at a federal collaborative level and were also able to integrate and align organizations from different regions of Argentina, such as the Northeast and Northwest, the Cuyo, Central, and Litoral nodes. Now we are working to draw up an agenda with specific initiatives for the next few years,” explains Diana Rodríguez.
In addition, Tecpetrol is preparing a new event, a Cycle of Conversations, with the Union of Private Petroleum Workers of Salta and Jujuy for later this year. The idea for these meetings is for Tecpetrol and contractor companies in the area to meet and work with the union's executive committee so that they can learn about and discuss issues such as diversity, discrimination, inclusion, electoral quotas, and workplace harassment, among others. This will be the starting point for the subsequent definition of a joint work plan.
“Tecpetrol's growth called for far-reaching transformation in the company’s social management. Only a few years ago, our roundtables were mostly comprised of urbanites whose perspectives and interests were not very dissimilar to the company’s own corporate vision. Today, our projects have spread to new places in Latin America incorporating alternative interest groups and challenging us to adopt a more comprehensive outlook,” says Pablo Martellotta.
Catalina Echeverri, Coordinator of Community Relations in Colombia, adds: “One of the pillars of work at our projects in Colombia has been the assurance of indigenous community rights. Tecpetrol had already developed considerable insight into diversity, but we had to learn new aspects of it and develop skills that are now an integral part of our culture."
Ensuring good communication with its neighbors is key for the company, and it is thus working on various aspects to foster mutual understanding with indigenous communities. One example of this is the effort made to incorporate intercultural knowledge, setting up a social liaison team that speaks indigenous languages. This means that dialogue processes can be both equitable and transparent, as economic and social development plans constructed together with the communities can truly respond to their needs and be respectful of their cultural identity. "Some of the initiatives we’ve deployed to get to know and work together with indigenous communities, as part of identifying promotion and preservation, include accompanying them in photography projects, making documentary videos about their music and other aspects such as gastronomy, aimed at protecting and enhancing their cultural heritage," adds Catalina.
"We are on a very good path as a team and as a company, and we’re very excited to be able to continue expanding our vision and management to ensure that Tecpetrol’s impact on our neighboring communities continues to be increasingly beneficial," concludes Martellotta.