Corning, Leatherstocking, and Pike corporate secretary/business analyst Julie Lewis (right) and company counterparts (top, from left) Mike German (CEO/president), Chuck Lenns (CFO) and Russ Miller (CIO). Above, Karen Hubbard, sales representative for Rain For Rent, with a heating unit on a Susquehanna County gas pad.
Women are continuing to change the shape of the petroleum and natural gas (PNG) workforce, and their interest in the industry has been embraced by companies like Coterra, Williams, Leatherstocking, SWN and others operating in the Marcellus shale. Depending on the source, women make up 15 to 22 percent of the work force in the PNG industry, a number that has grown steadily over the last decade.
The 2021-22 school year was the first during which the number of female students eclipsed males at the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum and Natural Gas in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Program director Sue Gumble is also a graduate of the school who worked in the gas fields before being asked by the College to come back and teach. She has been an inspiration to the female students who have followed in her footsteps. The aspects of the industry that attract women vary, but those who were interviewed for this story agree that it has been a rewarding career for them so far, and they encourage other women to look into the opportunities PNG provides.
“I liked the idea of working hands-on, and I knew that I could make a stable income and work my way up through the ranks with more years of experience,” said Crystal Bingham, who graduated in 2020 with a degree in Natural Gas Technology. She initially interned with Coterra (then Cabot) before accepting an entry-level position at Williams as a compression technician.
“I love my job,” Crystal (above) stated. “Everyday, I’m faced with problem solving, and I feel accomplished knowing that I have completed a task.”
Julie Lewis entered the industry a few years earlier, graduating from the School of PNG in 2016 and working as a business analyst for Leatherstocking, where she also did her internship. She studied both business administration and measurement technology.
“This job has also allowed me to use my past skills as a substitute teacher, photographer and county legislator,” Julie related. When she finished raising her children, she wanted a full-time job and credits a lot of prayer for helping her rule out some other options before deciding that the PNG industry was the right place for her. “I enjoy the freedom and trust to work independently and being valued for my skills.”
Karen Hubbard was working for an industrial networking distributor, prior to moving to northeast Pennsylvania, building hard drives for frack vans on completion sites. “This job led me to wanting to work in outside sales and development within the oil and gas industry,” she explained. He parents lived in Susquehanna County and saw first-hand how PNG was transforming the economy. “They stood behind me in my pursuit and my 15 years in the industry.” Karen has worked for a number of large companies and is currently employed as a sales representative for Rain For Rent, which supplies temporary liquid handling solutions for active PNG sites.
While being a woman obviously did not prevent them from entering a predominantly male workforce, they have advice for current students and new employees looking to make advances in the industry.
“If you are a woman trying to get hired in an operations or field position, be prepared to answer questions like ‘Have you ever fixed something?’ or ‘Do you like working outside in the cold?’” said Julie. “I do feel there is some bias and doubt about our abilities. If you want to work in the field, dress for your interview in clean, field-like attire. It’ll be easier for the interviewer to picture you there.”
Karen is a big proponent of networking, serving as executive director of Women Helping Women. “Connect yourself with other professional women in the industry as well as with community outreach programs,” she offered. “And focus on staying professional and creating professional relationships with colleagues.”
All three insist that, if the interest and desire are sincere, there’s no need to hesitate. “Anyone can be a gas technician,” Crystal said of her job. “If you put in the work, you will succeed and be rewarded.”