OIL and gas industry figures have formed a network to help address the problem of how to persuade women to make a career in a sector that has complained of skills shortages.

The AXIS Network aims to help attract women into the industry and to provide support for those who take the plunge into what is seen by some as a male-dominated world.

The founders include women who have reached senior levels in the industry but believe more could be done to help others enjoy similar success.

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The network represents the latest attempt to tackle the gender imbalance that is seen as a potential constraint on the growth of the North Sea industry.

"Women can play a vital role in helping to address the skills shortage and driving the industry forward in the years to come," said the chairman of the network, Irene Hannah, contracts and procurement manager for Shell.

Ms Hannah said the network aims to raise awareness of issues that could affect women's attitude to the industry and to help find solutions.

"Typical career issues faced by females and which many other industries have overcome are still commonplace in the oil and gas industry. Examples of these are returning to work after having family or a conflict of interests for a couple who both work in the industry," she said.

The network expects to provide a forum for sharing best practice and offering access to role models and mentors and to hold regular events.

It has had support from oil and gas producers such as Shell and Dana Petroleum and services firms LR Senergy and Thor Holt.