It’s still a man’s world in the oil and natural gas business, but career prospects for women are improving, according to a survey of more than 3,000 energy professionals worldwide.

The Global Diversity and Inclusion Report, conducted online by BP plc and Rigzone, asked oil and gas professionals about female representation. Although almost 75% believe the industry remains male-dominated, progress is being made, most said, and they indicated it was “quite” or “very important” to ensure the industry remains attractive to women.

“This finding is particularly relevant given nearly nine out of 10 survey respondents were male,” the survey authors said.

Well more than half (60%) of respondents said they expect the biggest increases by women to the workforce will be those just entering the industry and those early in their careers. More optimism for career prospects for women was seen in the United States, with 75% indicating it had improved in recent years, compared to 71% who said it had improved globally.

“We want women to know that the oil and gas industry has made tremendous strides in recent years and that it offers opportunities not provided by other sectors,” said BP’s Kirsty Bashforth, group head of organizational effectiveness. “While the industry acknowledges it still has work to do in terms of a gender balanced pool of talent, the results of this survey demonstrate that industry initiatives and programs to engage women about careers in oil and gas are making an impact and we need to keep focused for them to continue to do so.”

Women represented almost one-third of BP’s workforce in 2012, Bashforth said.

The survey found male and female energy professionals united on three criteria when looking for a job: transparency in remuneration structure; availability of mentoring and sponsorship programs; and flexible working arrangements.

“However, female respondents placed more importance than male respondents on mentoring and sponsorship programs and pay transparency, while male respondents placed more importance on companies offering childcare-specific benefits.” Both placed nearly equal importance on flexible work arrangements when selecting an employer.

Almost half (47%) said gender plays a role in setting compensation, but when asked specifically who is better paid, 36% said men and 44% said they believed pay was comparable.

“Respondents in the U.S. were not only more positive about the career prospects for women in the oil and gas industry, a slightly greater percentage also agreed that gender diversity has improved in recent years,” the survey said. “However, 31% of U.S. oil and gas professionals believe they have lost out professionally due to their gender and not their ability. This is the highest proportion of respondents from any region globally.”

Canada had the highest proportion of respondents (78%) who said career prospects had improved for women, while European-based energy professionals had the lowest proportion of respondents (35%) that believed gender discrimination was common.

Of the energy professionals who responded to the survey, 26% were working in North America, with other respondents from Asia Pacific (24%), Middle East (17%), Europe (14%), and the remaining from Central/South America and the Caribbean and Africa.