An Unfiltered Letter to AAPG about Unconscious Bias

Editor’s Note: This letter was originally posted on LinkedIN.

Dear AAPG,

I have been an AAPG member since 2003 and have served as the Co-Chair of the AAPG Women’s Network (formerly known as PROWESS) for the past 3 years. My career has taken me everywhere from deep waters of Alaminos Canyon to the vast expanse of the Delaware Basin. I am a petroleum geologist, I am a woman, and I am an AAPG member. 

Since first getting a link to the comments made by Mike Party, the current AAPG President, a few days ago, I have been reflecting on the magnitude of the total lack of awareness that was displayed in his comments. I’m not here to ridicule Mike. In fact, I don’t even really know him. Ironically, when the Midland screening of Anomalies was shown at the Midland Petroleum Museum (an event which I organized), I was not able to attend because I was on a rig in Pecos County, Texas taking a core. I’ve had no interaction with the current AAPG President, even though I am employed in Midland, Texas. Conversely, I had several interactions with past Presidents Charles Sternbach and Denise Cox during their terms. They were both keen to understand more about the needs of the Women’s Network and how they could meet those needs. 

I don’t believe that Mike had any malicious intent with his comments. As I listened to him stumble through his answer, I felt sorry for him in some ways, but I also felt anger and disappointment. He couldn’t see what he couldn’t see. He couldn’t see the dichotomy between his position as the leader of AAPG and his total lack of understanding of AAPG programs, membership numbers, initiatives, or constituent’s experiences. The sad thing is that Mike isn’t the only one in AAPG that can’t see this. In many ways the organization of AAPG itself can’t see this.

The fact is, this blindness is why many women and men in the industry are questioning the value proposition of their membership in AAPG. 

Why send money to a professional development organization that doesn’t fundamentally understand, recognize, support, or cultivate their professional lives? I’ve heard from a multitude of well-respected folks in the industry that these comments were the nail in the coffin to end their participation in AAPG. On many levels I can relate to that sentiment. My position as Co-Chair of the AAPG Women’s Network has been, at times, difficult, frustrating, and disappointing due to the hurdles and intermittent support of the AAPGWN by AAPG itself.

You see, a few years ago, the Women’s Group (formerly known as PROWESS), was delisted as a committee within AAPG and was branded a “Special Interest Group”, which is akin to a “hobby” group. Even after the tremendous momentum and visibility gained by the Anomalies book and the Rockstars documentary, it was decided that the group that advocates for women in AAPG was more of a hobby and was not a “real” part of AAPG. Currently, we do not have a budget and receive limited support from AAPG, as they have to prioritize “real” parts of AAPG. 

Since coming on as Co-Chair, I have fought this stigma that women’s careers are hobbies and that our group is a “soft skills” group for the “ladies”. I’ve pushed for this organization to showcase leading technical women in the industry. As a group of volunteers, AAPGWN (formerly PROWESS) has conducted short courses, developed mentoring programs, created an initiative to nominate women for AAPG awards, created meaningful networking opportunities, and also commissioned a study by University of Texas to track the careers of female geologists over the course of 5 years in order to get hard data on our career experiences. However, with the limited support from AAPG and the fact that AAPG absorbs any funding we raise, AAPGWN is often marginalized and encumbered in our efforts to advocate for, educate, and develop all members of AAPG. 

It’s disheartening that the President of AAPG doesn’t even know what AAPGWN is doing or has done, and is unaware of his role as an advocate for AAPGWN which falls under the umbrella of the group HE leads. 

Anomalies is about the first 100 women members of AAPG, but the hundreds who have come after those 100 have a story, too. AAPG, I’m calling on you to recognize and support the multitudes of women who are out there making their careers happen. They are going to field, they are educating the next generation of geoscientists, they are prospecting, they are starting companies, they are navigating the waters of career transitions, they AREN’T sitting around saying “oh, I can’t do that because I’m a woman” and they aren’t waiting for AAPG to come save them. They will persevere with or without AAPG, I believe however that AAPG can be a tremendous benefit for their members IF AAPG chooses to participate in that process.

So I’m publicly calling on AAPG to fully support the AAPGWN with a budget, internal support, and a clear path of participation within AAPG. 

I am passionate about the work I do as a geoscientist and I am in awe of the tremendous contributions made by my peers. We aren’t hobby geologists and, as paying members of AAPG, we deserve a budget and full support. AAPG, we deserve a seat at your table because we actually are all sitting at the other meaningful tables. It’s up to YOU if YOU want to support your membership.

As our charter, written by Amanda Haddad states, “Our goal is to make women’s issues, non-issues”. AAPG, I ask that you consider solidifying your commitment to that goal.


Terra George

Co-Chair AAPG Women’s Network

Member No. 813031

As Co-Chair of the AAPG Women’s Network, I have taken time to organize and share my thoughts on the current interview controversy and AAPG as a whole by writing an open letter to AAPG. My goal in doing this is to shed light on a long-standing problem and facilitate a path to a solution. These views are my own and do not reflect an official position from the AAPG Women’s Network or my employers current or past.

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