SHALE Magazine May/June 2019

Page 38


Women are Making the Most of Opportunities in the Bakken By: Bette Grande


ow did a woman, born and raised in Florida, with a degree from prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts find her way to the Bakken oil patch and fall in love with western North Dakota? As I found out, it’s an interesting story. Job opportunities in the Bakken are numerous and growing by the day. As the communities in western North Dakota have grown, you see the usual job openings that you see everywhere in the country — retail, restaurant, clerical — and more specialized opportunities in industries such as engineering, medical and skilled trades. Jobs in the energy industry are plentiful as well. Drilling and production jobs are filled predominantly by men, but as the Bakken oil play matures we are seeing are more and more women moving into “non-traditional” roles of the energy industry. Judging by the women I have spoken to, there are no limits to the opportunities if you are willing to work hard, take responsibility and learn. I have had the opportunity to know and visit with many women in the energy field ranging from executives in government relations to those touring the Gulf Coast to meet the people affected by the BP spill and spending time at the Canadian oil sands learning about mining, refining and transporting. The Bakken is home to many women and families in the energy field. Watching the growing communities, the sprawling opportunity and the ongoing prosperity is heartwarming. Some say that Bakken 2.0 is more family friendly, and the pace is still fast — but nothing like before. Drilling activity will continue for another generation, however slowly the jobs picture is switching to high paying, permanent and more family-friendly positions. Women are filling critical roles and most have a story to go along with it. Monica Bleess, born in Florida, now calls North Dakota home and loves the beauty of the Badlands and enjoys the four distinct seasons.



In fact, she says, “You couldn’t get me to move back to Florida.” Monica attended Smith College, a prestigious all-women college on the east coast, and earned a degree in geoscience. She spent a short time working in a park in South Dakota when she heard about jobs in the Bakken.

Monica Bleess With her background in geoscience, Bleess has enjoyed learning on the job as she has moved through various job opportunities. Working as a mud logger she learned all she could about the drilling process and the geology of the Bakken. She became interested in the field inspection role while visiting with a female field inspector on drilling rigs. Feeling it could be a good fit, she applied and found out it was. Monica’s job has enough challenge and variety to keep her on her toes. The inspections vary from drilling to completion to abandonment and reclamation. With the inspection of drilling rigs, saltwater disposal and injection wells, and pipeline integrity she finds each day is new and interesting. The oil and gas process is recorded from start to finish by the inspectors assuring that state regulations are followed. Lisa Tonneson The Bakken is now also the home of a New Yorker, a retired Navy (welder, firefighter, ship-

Drilling and production jobs are filled predominantly by men, but as the Bakken oil play matures we are seeing are more and more women moving into “nontraditional” roles of the energy industry

About the author: Bette Grande is a Research Fellow for energy and environment issues at The Heartland Institute. She served as a North Dakota state Representative from 1996–2014. Grande was a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Education and Environment Division. She was born and raised in Williston, North Dakota.