Global Network to Promote Women in LPG

The World LPG Association’s (WLPGA) Industry Council on May 19 approved a Women in LPG Global Network (WINLPG), with goals to support and retain women already in the industry, to promote the use of lobbying and advocacy through media and at industry events, and to educate and attract women to the propane profession.
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Alison Abbott, WLPGA marketing and communications director, said the association has been working on the concept of a global LPG network for women since the National Propane Gas Association held its initial Women in Propane Council event in Atlanta in 2012.

“We were very impressed and thought, is this something that can be rolled out globally?” Abbott explained.

WLPGA tested the waters this past October, holding a women in propane event during the association’s World Forum in Miami. The event was well-attended, and soon afterward the association’s president Kimball Chen asked Abbott to conduct a feasibility study of creating a Women in Propane Group as one of WLPGA’s global networks. WINLPG will be the fourth global network of the association. The others focus on cylinder management, technology, and autogas.

At the association’s Industry Council meeting this past January in South Korea, Abbott presented her study, which concluded that the association should move forward to create WINLPG. Since then, Abbott has worked on forming the council and determining its overall strategic goals and who will run it. Rather than starting from scratch, she looked at established women’s groups in the nuclear, mining, solar, and engineering industries as well as a women’s group at the International Gas Union.

“They have all been sharing their failures and successes and given me an excellent start on how we can structure this network,” she noted, adding that the Women in Nuclear network is a global group based out of London with about 25,000 members.

“It’s a bigger industry than ours, of course, and it has been going for 20 years.” The nuclear group has shared information with Abbott on how the group operates. She noted that a high percentage of nuclear industry members are male. “If you think about it, we share a lot of the same challenges with the nuclear industry.”

To further illustrate the need for a global women in propane group, Abbott shared information from Energia, an international network that focuses on women’s issues in the energy industry. Energia notes that most LPG consumers are women. But Energia noted the small percentage of women within the propane industry at all levels. Abbott pointed to another study showing that having more women in management positions improves a company’s financial performance and can boost company returns and that companies with women on their boards outperform their rivals.

She expanded on the three initial goals of WINLPG. Regarding the support and retention of current women in the propane industry, Abbott said the association will track what measures are in place at various propane companies and will look to start a networking process so women in the propane industry can communicate with each other. The second goal of promoting the use of lobbying and advocacy through media and at industry events will take place by promoting role models and conducting case studies and making the case at various industry events.

Regarding the third goal of educating members and attracting women to the industry, Abbott said the association will conduct a “gap” analysis, reviewing how well-represented women are at various propane companies in different countries. The analysis will take place next year.

A launch meeting during this year’s World Forum Sept. 29 in Singapore will be the next step for WINLPG. Planning of the women in propane program is in the early stages, but the association plans to present speakers and a roundtable discussion related to women in propane. Nikki Brown, managing director of Cavagna UK, will serve as the first WINLPG chair.

WLPGA members can join WINLPG and the other global networks, and the association is still determining eligibility to join the new network. But Abbott hopes to see wide participation, with at least one council member from every continent. She also hopes to see WINLPG operate as more than just a networking group. The network will seek to promote the concept that women have a unique set of qualifications and abilities that can contribute to any business.

“We want to see how we can educate people and develop international networks,” Abbott said. “The issue is that gender balance is not optimized in the LPG industry, and WLPGA is in a unique position to start to make a change, this change to be driven by a network that will recommend actions and activities as part of the WLPGA strategic planning process.” —Daryl Lubinsky