It has been ten years since the devastating Deepwater Horizon tragedy, which took the lives of 11 men from among the 126-member crew working on the BP-operated Macondo prospect. Not much has been written about the five women named on Transocean RIG ’s personnel on board (POB) list. It’s surprising there were that many women working on one rig at the same time as women comprise only 3.6% of the offshore workforce, a number that has held steady for years. Although women have been working offshore since the ‘70s, it’s not unusual for them to talk about still being the lone female during any given assignment.
In the aftermath of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, numerous operational improvements were made to strengthen BP’s safety culture to help ensure such a disaster never happens again. At the same time, BP has made a concerted effort to diversify its workforce and continues to make progress developing women leaders at all levels of the company. According to BP, the number of women in its workforce has risen to an all-time high of 35% (as of December 2019), an increase of almost 11% from a decade ago, and significantly higher than the 19% industry-wide figure cited by the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 2010.
A major change that has taken place in the intervening years is BP America, Inc., appointed its first female chairperson and president in 2018. Susan Dio, a 34-year veteran of BP at the time she assumed the role, joined the rare few women at the top of a major oil and gas company (encouragingly, there are a number of female CEOs at smaller independents or who have started their own companies). Vicki Hollub had taken the helm at Occidental in 2016, but Maria das Gracas Silva Foster had stepped down as CEO of Petrobras in 2014, as did Karen Agustiawan, CEO of Pertamina, that same year. To its credit, in 2017 BP appointed Priscillah Mabelane CEO BP Southern Africa (BPSA), the first woman in South Africa’s history to hold such a position with a multi-national oil and gas company.
BP’s board of directors is split almost evenly with five women and six men, although its executive management team doesn’t have the advantage of such diversity – there are only three women (including Dio) and ten men. The other two women are interim CEO, downstream, Emma Delaney, and Dame Angela Strunk, BP’s chief scientist and head of technology, downstream.
In BP America’s C-suite, Christine Stevenson is Chief Compliance Officer (CCO). Cindy Yeilding currently serves as BP America’s senior vice president. The company is close to reaching the goal it set for itself in 2011 for 25% of its group leaders to be women by the end of this year; currently it is at 24%. Its goal for 30% of senior level leadership to be women is lagging behind at 25.3%.
Given that the lack of female role models and women in leadership are often cited as two of the main reasons young women are reticent to enter male-domination industries like oil and gas, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to assume Dio’s appointment to chairperson and president has had some influence in the past few years on the increase.
With a leader like Dio, who says diversity and inclusion cannot just be priorities, but must be part of an organization’s “institutional DNA, its culture,” perhaps the numbers of women industry-wide will start to increase from 22% presently to BP’s current figure of 35% and higher. One way she’s achieved this within her own company is to “creat[e] broader accountability among executive leaders within the business across all segments in the U.S.”
Dio, who blogs from her personal LinkedIn account and has a Twitter account (@susan_dio), is a sought-after keynote speaker at major events, where she talks openly about the issues women in industry face. A chemical engineer with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Mississippi, she qualified early in her career as a certified welder and was part of a team that filed two patents. She had two children while continuing to climb the ladder at BP and, at one point, switched to a part-time schedule before resuming full-time work when “the time was right for me and my family.” By sharing her story on such public forums, Dio dispels some of the mystique about what it takes to succeed in a male-dominated industry.
It’s a win for all women anytime another woman attains a highly-visible role and breaks the proverbial glass ceiling but, as Dio and other women will tell you, the real sea change will come when the word “female” is dropped from in front of their titles.
Source: Forbes Business