5 Women to Watch in the Energy Industry

Digital Technologies in Shipping
“What we do is dark, it’s dangerous, it’s difficult, but we power the world; we power technology, we power Wall Street”
Katie Mehnert, Founder, Pink Petro, an online community for women in energy Interviewed by Russ Capper for The Businessmakers Radio Show

Studies from research organizations McKinsey and EY tell us that having gender diversity in organizations actually leads to greater profits. But according to a recent LinkedIn study women make up just a quarter of oil and gas industry professionals, and EY tells us that only 14% of the boards of the top global utilities have women on them (just 5% for the US). We take a look at five women who have pioneered and perservered to bring success to their organizations – and are paving the way for others to follow.

The energy business is in a critical stage

The first woman Chair of the World Energy Council Marie-José Nadeau sits on multiple advisory boards including: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Advisory Board on Sustainable Energy for All; the Advisory Council of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs and China Energy Fund Committee; the Advisory Council – Women Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Program (UAE) and on the selection committee of Sheik Zayed’s Energy Prize. She is a Director of the Boards of ENGI, METRO Inc., Churchill Falls and Labrador Corporation Limited and the Montréal Council on Foreign Relations. Nadeau was the first female member of Hydro-Québec’s senior management team back in the 1990s where she remained for over twenty years. At the Women in Energy Summit in Dohar, Qatar. Nadeau provided this advice to companies to bring more women into the energy industry: “Women still face the double burden of caring for domestic responsibilities as well as promoting their own professional development and career. We need an ecosystem of measures that will call for coaching, mentorship, role models, family policies, family support and childcare, sustained over time with top management and government support.” And these changes need to come soon, because as Nadeau told the The Guardian “The energy business is in a critical stage… Energy systems are going to develop into something that we do not really know as of now … if you have a group thinking alike from the same background, same age and gender, you will miss those opportunities.”

A propensity to listen to each other

Women in the energy industry are the first of their kind, with no mentors or roadmaps to follow. The consensus seems to be that it’s a tough industry in general but persistence and hard work pays off. Lisa Cavanaugh, the VP of Organizational Effectiveness and Business Strategy, Magna Energy Services, told Anne Feltus in her report Closing the Gender Gap that “the challenges facing women in the energy industry are no different from – and, in fact, might be easier than – those women must deal with in other sectors….I believe there’s more politeness and respect for women, at least on the surface, in the oil industry than I ever saw in consulting, and men are more appreciative of the perspective I bring to the table in this industry.” Cavanaugh was a Director at Houston-based Key Energy Services for almost five years, and was their Vice President of Organizational Development for three. She spent a year at industrial aviation service company Bristow and is currently the VP for Organizational Effectiveness and Business Strategy at Colorado-based Magna Energy. The work experiences Cavanaugh described to Feltus mirror the statistics from EY and McKinsey on the benefit of having women in the corporate mix. Cavanaugh recounted: “The dialogue is a little different. There is more of a propensity to listen to each other and work more co-operatively together.”

Embracing New Ways of Working

Brande Stellings, Vice President of Corporate Board Services at Catalyst Inc. told Bloomberg earlier this year that: “Having diverse minds around the table leads to better outcomes.” DNV GL is a company that is well known for their innovation, so it is no surprise that their CEO of Oil & Gas is female, a woman named Elisabeth Tørstad. Tørstad has been at DNV GL for over 20 years; prior to her current role she was Chief Technology Officer and before that she was Chief Operating Officer responsible for DNV’s operations in the maritime and energy markets in North America, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. It couldn’t be a more difficult time to be a CEO in that industry, with jobs and budgets being slashed, intense scrutiny on environmental impact, and a workforce that needs to adapt to an accelerated rate of technological advancement. In an interview last year with Offshore Magazine Tørstad describes the innovative approaches DNV GL has applied to a changing world: “We have provided assistance across the energy industry with company’s formal programs to capture knowledge and expertise before subject matter experts retire. We have also developed many processes to embrace new ways of working and created new strategies and initiatives for training and development. Our internal Knowledge Portal helps us capture and share verified knowledge and includes key documents, showcases projects, and also lists key experts so that knowledge is transferred easily around the business worldwide and across our various sectors. Increasing diversity in the industry with regards to age, gender, mother tongue, culture, and nationality also drives a need for increasing formalization in capturing and transferring knowledge. It is important that this happens continuously in a knowledge-based organization.” Tørstad will speak at this Offshore Pipeline Technology Conference in Amsterdam happening this February.

The balancing act

Environmental regulation, not awards, is often what comes to mind when you think of Oil & Gas, but an award is just what Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Energy received when they were presented with the Environmental Management Authority’s prestigious Green Leaf Award in 2014. The Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEEA) had run a media campaign to promote conservation as well as organized several outreach events, additionally the team at MEEA were commended for leading by their own personal example. The Honorable Heidi Wong is the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Energy, and The Trinidad Guardian reported that she is facing very unique challenges in this country, with outdated legislation from 1969 on the books as well as “severe staff challenges”. Trinidad and Tobago Newsday reported on the struggles this country is currently facing: “Heidi Wong said this country must set a fiscal regime of tax-breaks for oil/gas companies that are comparable to rival energy-producing nations, so as to attract investors. ‘If we are to remain in the market, we must be competitive’. She spoke of a balancing act between giving taxbreaks and earning revenues.” Women make up an impressive 31% of state board appointees in Trinidad and Tobago, whose previous Prime Minister, a woman, envisioned a goal of 40% representation. Wong will speak at the Energy Caribbean conference in 2017.

When it Comes to Women CEOs, Brazil Scores High

Forbes tells us that “14% of the CEOs of large companies in Brazil are women. In comparison, the number of CEOs heading large companies in the US and in the United Kingdom is stuck at less than 5%.” Elizabeth Farina is part of this unprecedented rise of businesswomen in Brazil as President and CEO of UNICA. Besides being a leader in female CEO representation, Brazil is a leader in world ethanols along with the US and Europe. Ethanol Producer Magazine tells us that “Ethanol and bioenergy produced from sugarcane already constitute 15.7 percent of Brazil’s energy mix, replacing more than 40 percent of gasoline and avoiding 600 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of the ethanol program in the 1970s.” Farina spent over 30 years as a Professor of Economics at the University of Sao Paolo, and is an expert in industrial organization and regulation. She has been a board member of the International Food and Agribusiness Association, a steering committee member of the International Competition Network (ICN), and was also president of the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) Brazil’s equivalent to the US Federal Trade Commission. An article co-authored by Farina, Marian Zechin and Leticia Philips gives compelling reasons why the work Farina does is so important: “A study elaborated by the Medical School of São Paulo University indicates that the proposed expansion for the ethanol consumption (50 billion liters in 2030) would avoid, considering only eight main Brazilian metropolitan areas, almost 7 thousand deaths until 2030 and would allow savings of more than US$ 23 billion to public and private health systems.” Farina will speak at Sugar and Ethanol Brazil this April.

Know of a noteworthy woman in the energy business? Tweet to us at the new @KNect365Energy and let us know about her! And we also invite you to join the discussion at our KNect365  Energy LinkedIn group.


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