Women and the oil and gas industry.  An oxymoron?

According to a January 2015 report released by The American Petroleum Institute (api.org), women are vastly outnumbered by men, comprising only 19% of the industry in the U.S., and, of those, very few ever make it to the top, decision-making positions.

There are some highly-visible women on the oil and gas world stage, most notably in Brazil, where Dima Rousseff is the country’s first female president.  Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company, is led by Maria das Graças Foster, whose background is in chemical engineering, and the National Petroleum Agency, which regulates the country’s oil sector, is headed by Magda Chambriard.

Interestingly, it is in developing countries where women hold some of the highest-ranking positions in the industry.  In 2010, when former Shell employee Diezani Allison-Madueke became the first woman to be appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, she also became OPEC’s first female oil minister.  Albina Assis served as Angola’s Minister of Petroleum from 1992 – 1999, making her one of only three women to have held that position.  Karen Agustiawan is the CEO of Pertmina, Indonesia’s state-owned oil company.

British Petroleum (BP) has proved to be a female-friendly company with a number of women rising in its ranks, although many have since left to pursue other ventures.  Vivienne Cox’s 28-year career with the company culminated in her position as head of BP’s Alternative Energy business.  After 27 years with the company, Linda Adamany, a group VP, who believes “the door is wide open” for women, achieved her goal of retiring at the age of 55.  Cynthia (C.J) Warner, group VP for refining with 27 years in the energy sector, currently is CEO of Sapphire Energy.

Here in the U.S., an elite group of women has made it to the top of the male-dominated industry.  Patricia Woertz spent 29 years at Chevron, eventually becoming Executive VP of Global Downstream before going on to become President and CEO of Archer Daniels Midland in 2007.  After a 29-year career with Shell and rising to the position of Executive Director, Linda Cook resigned in 2008 after failing to be named CEO and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Marathon Oil.  Another former Shell executive, Lynn Elsenhans, went on to become CEO of Sunoco before stepping down in 2012 and joining the Board of Directors at Baker-Hughes.

The current oil boom, particularly the shale plays in Texas and other states, is an economic godsend, providing unprecedented employment opportunities.  According to a study conducted by UTSA, the Eagle Ford Shale alone supported over 47,000 full-time jobs in 2011. That can only bode well for women hoping to enter the business, as well as those currently working toward breaking the “gas ceiling.”


And this is why I decided to write Breaking the Gas Ceiling™: Women in the il & Gas Industry . . .

Watch this space in future issues for interviews with the most successful women in the oil and gas industry.

Rebecca Ponton has been a journalist for 20 years and is also a petroleum landman.  She can be reached at rebecca@breakingthegasceiling.com.


Link to Hays Recruiting survey: http://www1.hays.com/library/pdf/Oil%20Gas%20Salary%20Guide%202012%20-%20Web.pdf

Link to the UTSA Eagle Ford Shale study: http://utsa.edu/today/2012/05/shalestudy.html

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