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Women in Geosciences


“Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology...The Deep and Real History”

–Robbie Rice Gries, President, Priority Oil & Gas LLC
7:00 am–8:30 am • Tuesday, September 20 • Room 103 • $25

Abstract: If not recorded, vast annals of history are lost. Pioneering women in petroleum geology entered the field very shortly after men became valued and accepted in the oil exploration...and women were first employed the year the American Association of Petroleum Geologists was founded! This was encouraged because so many men were conscripted or volunteered for World War I. And this was before women’s suffrage!

Women became subsurface geologists at a time when the tools of the trade were rocks (no electric logs, no seismic, no paleontology) and surveying equipment. Interestingly, some of the greatest men in the profession were responsible for hiring, training, promoting, and keeping women in this career—names like Sidney Powers, Everette DeGolyer, George Matson, Alex McCoy, Wallace Pratt, and E. T. Dumble.

Required to quit, usually, when they married...only single women survived, some as entrepreneurs, some as well site geologists, and some in corporate management. The rare company, Amerada Petroleum, welcomed married women to continue working.

Women soon after World War I were responsible for the biggest technological advancement in exploration...working out stratigraphy with micropaleontology...which, still without well logs and seismic, became absolutely essential.

World War II created new opportunities again for women to enter the field and they did in droves. With the onset of electric logs and seismic, women could venture into exploration using the newest technology. But again, careers were discouraged after the war, both when women married and also because a new social order was developing...a powerful social dynamic of putting the “little ladies” back in the home “free of the burden of working”—the June Cleaver era. For the next thirty years it was a struggle for a woman to get an exploration job...and if they did, it always came bundled with menial tasks and inferior pay.

In the early 1970s, the EEOC threatened oil companies with denying them federal leases if they did not have a “diversity” plan for hiring women and other minorities. An immediate response resulted in the hiring of great numbers of women. Affirmitve Action actually worked and had lasting affects. Within a very few years women thought they were only hired for their brains! And by then, they probably were. But, the world had long forgotten the smart women who were the real pioneers.

robbie.griesBiography: Robbie Gries is founder and President of Priority Oil & Gas LLC, a Denver-based natural gas production, petroleum exploration, and development company with producing properties in Kansas and Wyoming. Robbie has been in the petroleum industry for over 40 years, and has been an independent in this industry since 1980. She has combined the business side of oil and gas with her passion for the science of geology and published over 30 papers. She is the 2012 recipient of the AAPG Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award. She was the first woman President of AAPG and expanded the footprint of the organization by visiting over 44 countries and all of the newly formed AAPG Regions. She is a Fellow and past Treasurer of the Geological Society of America. Robbie has been a Director for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and an officer, leader, and scientific contributor to the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists. She has a Master’s degree in geology from the University of Texas at Austin where she serves on the Advisory Council for the the Jackson School of Geosciences Geology Foundation. Robbie is a co-founder and a Board member of GeoScience World, an internet resource for the geosciences providing digital access to geological publications to over 19 countries. She is past president of the Colorado Women’s Forum and 1997 recipient of the Woman Leader of Excellence Award from the Colorado Women’s Leadership Coalition. She was a founder of People House, a Denver-based center for Human Potential started in 1974.


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