Imagine trying to cook without the power for your oven, stove or refrigerator. Imagine trying to host your family and friends without being able to turn the lights on. 

The global economy and our everyday lives would come to a screeching halt without energy. Just ask the victims of hurricanes Maria, Harvey or Dorian. It’s also the sector that needs the most rapid innovation, especially as the planet reaches yet another record CO2 level

Between climate change, the technology revolution, and the increased need for data analytics, robotics, and artificial intelligence, not to mention the development of a smarter electric grid, the energy sector is in the midst of its own revolution.

But it desperately needs to speed up to transform from its traditional fossil fuel dominance to cleaner, safer and more reliable energy. Innovation – especially rapid innovation – requires new ideas, new solutions, new technologies and, therefore, new talent. 

What drives innovation the most? Studies repeatedly show that it’s a diverse workforce, and yet, there are fewer women in oil and gas than almost any other major industry.

McKinsey reports that only 15 percent of employees in oil and gas are women. What’s more, only – wait for it – 1 percent of energy industry CEO’s are women. 

What will it take to get many more women in energy, especially in leadership?

There is a glimmer of light with the recent appointments of Susan Dio as chair and president of BP America, and Gretchen Watkins as president and US chair at Shell. But how to ramp it up?

Founder of Pink Petro Katie Mehnert shares her suggestions to dramatically shift the industry from its historic white male-wildcatter roots to one that more closely resembles the population it serves today.

With 20 years in the industry, she shared these six ideas:

  • Safety and diversity go hand-in-hand: “The companies that care about diversity, sustainability, climate and safety are the companies that are going to win when it comes to the war for talent,” shared Mehnert.
  • “Your biggest challenge is your biggest opportunity.” Mehnert said, adding, “get people into the system so they can change the culture and the industry to clean energy.”
  • “Companies need to look at the whole family…to make it easier for women to move up,” Mehnert insisted, because the more the workplace accommodates the changes to the modern family unit and people’s increasing focus on work-life management, the more women will be likely to join and stay in the industry. 
  • Investors’ intense focus on environment, social and governance issues (ESG) are focusing energy leadership more on these issues and, thereby, driving concerted efforts for meaningful change and looking for accountability.
  • Women are key to cleaning up the industry. Women absolutely need to be a part of the energy transformation:  “Women are fired up, quite literally, about climate and sustainability,” Mehnert said, “and women have a tendency to care just a tad bit more about these issues than men….We are waking up  and realizing this is something we need to do.”
  • Hire the outliers. Women and innovative people tend to approach careers differently, so they have unusual résumés that are more often than not screened out by traditional recruiting systems. So, if you’re serious about wanting new talent that bring in new ideas, then, when you’re hiring or looking to promote someone, don’t limit yourself to the traditional energy sector résumé.  

If you want to drive innovation in the energy sector (or any sector), hire and promote people who may think differently – women. 

It’s a win-win-win-win: for your company’s bottom line, for the economy, for the women, and for a cleaner, safer planet.


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