Megan Rodgers, director and sector head of the oil and gas sector at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, is blazing a trail in a male-dominated environment

Despite the increased number of female law-school graduates, the SA law industry is still disproportionately male-dominated, and it remains a challenging one for women. However, when they reach the top, women have the potential to become industry leaders. One such pioneering woman is Megan Rodgers, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s (CDH) director and sector head of oil and gas.

Born in Cape Town, Rodgers had to overcome considerable odds to get where she is today. She matriculated from Athlone High School, and despite her desire to study law, she was unable to do so due to financial constraints. Instead she was forced to enter the job market immediately after high school and managed to secure a position answering telephones at a property-management company.

Yet the desire to study law did not dissipate. Using her R1 700 salary, she saved every penny she could for university fees, and four years later she was finally able to start her LLB on a part-time basis at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Megan Rodgers, CDH director and sector head of oil and gas

While studying, Rodgers continued to work on a full-time basis and, at 5 pm each day, she would commute from work to part-time lectures at UWC – most nights this meant arriving home well after 10 pm. After completing her LLB, Rodgers went on to earn her LLM cum laude at UWC. When Rodgers reflects on this time, she does so with pride.

‘Our ability to multi-task is one of the most sophisticated and valuable attributes we as women share, and we should never allow this to be downplayed as a cliché,’ says Rodgers.

‘As women we juggle the demands of work life and family life on a daily basis, but there are times when we need to focus that energy towards the achievement of our personal goals. We should not feel guilt or shame in doing so. It is not selfish behaviour, it is deserved.’

After graduating, she completed her articles of clerkship at a leading commercial law firm in SA and went on to specialise in upstream oil and gas law on being admitted as an attorney. Rodgers was one of the first black female lawyers in SA to tackle the male-dominated upstream oil industry.

‘I rejected the myth that certain types of law are better suited for women very early in my career,’ she says. ‘But as a woman in the oil and gas industry, you definitely stand out. It’s like standing in the middle of an oil platform in high heels and a dress.’ According to the World Petroleum Council, women globally account for a far smaller share of employees in the oil and gas industry – roughly one-fifth – than they do in most other industries.

‘It took a while to break down the barrier but I was not about to back down from a challenge,’ says Rodgers. ‘I had worked hard to be there and if my presence caused discomfort to some, I unapologetically embraced it. With discomfort comes change, and I believed that I was at the forefront of change.’

Globally, women account for a far smaller share of employees in the oil and gas industry than in many other sectors

Rodgers earned the trust of her clients by submerging herself in the intricate details of the high-risk/high-reward oil business, and then supported their strategic objectives by providing fresh and innovative legal advice.

‘It is important to understand the business of your clients,’ she says. ‘I developed a commercial appreciation for the day-to-day risk associated with the oil industry and, in doing so, my seat at the head of their negotiating table was sealed.’

To date, Rodgers has assisted clients with oil and gas projects in more than 13 countries across four continents. In 2014, her work with the national oil company in Namibia earned her the Legal Adviser of the Year Award from African Investor.

In April 2015, Rodgers joined CDH to start up its oil and gas legal-services offering. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Rodgers has been recognised as an IFLR1000 Women Leader for both 2021 and 2022 (SA). IFLR1000 Women Leaders is an elite ranking category reserved for the most prominent women lawyers across the world working in the areas of IFLR1000 research.

This is an exclusive group of lawyers with outstanding reputations within their markets who either have expertise and experience of working on complex deals, or who have risen to hold leadership roles with their firms or their practices.

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