From an offshore platform in the North Atlantic, Dorthe Holmkvist, a native of Nørresundby, Denmark, shares an important lesson learned.
Twenty-four years ago in Nørresundby, Denmark, a local paper advertised opportunities for engineers to work offshore. Dorthe Holmkvist’s mother saved the advertisement to encourage young Dorthe to study engineering.
Seven years later, that advertisement and her mother’s encouragement were still in the back of Dorthe’s mind. Ready to jump into the workforce, Dorthe packed her sea bag and headed offshore to work in the energy industry.
Dorthe has worked on the water in the oil and gas industry in various roles over the past seventeen years. Her current role is as a process operator on a production platform in the offshore oilfields of Norway. As a process operator, Dorthe is responsible for operating the power station area, which consists of gas turbines, a fresh-water generator, emergency generators, and boilers.
In Dorthe’s two decades of experience, one day proved to be especially memorable when a close call on the rig floor of a drilling vessel emphasized the importance of always staying alert.
“We were on the drill floor waiting for the bottom-hole assembly to be laid out. I was standing in front of the stands and suddenly heard a noise. I turned around and noticed that one end of a stand was moving a bit. It wasn’t much so I turned my back to it. I heard the noise again, turned around, and this time it looked like the stand was jumping back and forth! I froze like rabbit caught in headlights, even after seeing my colleagues running away. I stood there debating with myself which way to run and why to run that way.”
Dorthe was able to make a decision, moving to a safe place on the floor quickly. At the same time, the pipe fell and landed within a meter of where she had been standing. Dorthe looks back at this experience as a lesson learned to share with newcomers, passing on to be observant at all times.
In Dorthe’s nearly two decades of experience on the water, she has worked with several women. In an industry where women make up roughly 3.5%, what has she seen that can help reduce the gender gap on the water?
“I think it’s a complicated question because to encourage more women will have to be a partnership between women and the industry. We can’t just blame everything on the industry, but we also have to acknowledge that to pursue a career in an industry like this, it will take personal sacrifices (maybe not for all women, but for most of us). If women are not willing to make these sacrifices then the process stopped before it had begun.”
Interacting with Dorthe, her pride and drive for the offshore energy industry is evident and inspiring. She has helped pave the way for women in this industry, while thriving on the challenges of working offshore. Here at Women Offshore, we are proud to know Dorthe and share her story.
The Women Offshore Foundation is an online organization and resource center for a diverse workforce on the water. Its mission is to propel women into meaningful careers through access to a worldwide community and professional development resources, while raising awareness amongst industry leaders and decision makers about issues affecting women on the water. Contact Women Offshore today: firstname.lastname@example.org.