Women only make up about 20 percent of the worldwide oil and gas workforce, according to a 2017 study by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Petroleum Council.
As a result, sometimes a drilling rig can be an uncomfortable place for a woman—uncomfortable in many senses of the word. Coveralls, the one-piece garment that drillers wear, are typically made with a man’s body in mind.
In response, RPS Manufacturing Solutions, located just outside of Lubbock, recently developed coveralls made just for women.
“We at RPS Solutions manufacture and sell direct to end-users all things PPE—or personal protective equipment,” says Tyneal Buckner, the Chief Customer Officer at RPS. “We came along a very important client called Halliburton, and they were seeking better recruitment of female employees, retention of these employees out in the field—because as we know it’s hard to be a female sometimes in a man-focused environment in industrial safety—and then also workplace diversity. Where they were trying to get these women to feel very inclusive and invited into those sometimes tough environments.”
Buckner says that coveralls are not truly gender neutral, and the few women’s coveralls currently on the market don’t fit the hole in the market.
“Basically what those patterns do is just shrink down the men’s kind of more boxy cut and style, essentially instead of making things that are curve-friendly or cutting down the legs to be able to match women’s different heights, or to give them something that’s more flattering in a color, or give them something that is adjustable in the waist to be able to allow them to fit more snug or more loose.”
Those patterns don’t “really allow us to have that feminine feel, to have that function that we want and for it to feel a little bit fashionable.”
And fashion, Buckner says, isn’t insignificant.
“For those that may not understand, the people that are in oil and gas, specifically in drilling, have worked very hard in their career to choose this as a profession. And they want to have pride in their profession,” Buckner says. “So just like you or I when we put on our clothes in the mornings, we want to feel good about what we have on, we want to have that personal pride in going to work. And when you have to put on something that looks like overgrown men’s pajamas, and go to work and feel good about yourself? That can make for a challenging day.”
There were some challenges to designing the perfect coveralls.
“The trickiest part is different body types. So as we all know, it’s not every one pair of jeans fits the same across, you know, every different type of body.”
So RPS sought out some professional help.
“We actually partnered with the best expertise in our backyard, which is at Texas Tech University with Dr. Sue, and she’s the director of the Apparel, Design, and Manufacturing Department. And we brought in several of Halliburton’s employees, as well as people from our community of different body types and heights. We put them in a 360 degree body camera scanning device, and they were able to get there, we scan their body, we understand what those different patterns need to be able to adjust to different body types, and then we asked and actually queried the people coming out of there, ‘What would you like to see in terms of a workplace uniform, knowing what you know about your body type?'”
While RPS is in the early stages of launching this program—only 1,000 coveralls have been made and distributed thus far—the feedback is positive.
“I will tell you, as word gets out, all the women are calling us in order to get these newly designed coveralls, so that they can really go out there and just share just kind of their message of that women are welcome in the workforce too in industrial applications.”
Written by Rachel Taube.