Women Are the New Faces of Leadership in the Oil and Gas Industry

By Lori LeBlanc, LMOGA Offshore Committee Director for BIC Magazine

I grew up in New Jersey where both of my parents worked for ExxonMobil.  My mother started her career with Esso, as the company was known, just before her 18th birthday in 1959.  It was a time when most women like my mother who worked outside of the home were hired for secretarial positions. She was part of a steno pool, wore white gloves to work, and was an expert in short-hand.  My mother continued to work in administrative positions with the company throughout her career, eventually moving from New Jersey to Baton Rouge, and she loved her job until the day she retired after 52 years of service.

I thought about my mother and women like her whose dedication and hard work have contributed greatly to the success of America’s oil and gas industry when I attended the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) annual meeting this spring. There, I also recognized that women are making their mark on today’s oil and gas industry in bold new roles, serving in high-level leadership positions that ten or twenty years ago might have been unthinkable.  We’ve come a long way from the steno pool, and the career opportunities for females in all areas of the oil and gas industry is more promising than ever before.

According to a 2015 report by the American Petroleum Institute, female employment in the oil and gas and petrochemical industries is projected to account for 185,000 of the total job opportunities through 2030. That’s across all job categories, with significant presence expected in professional and managerial jobs.  It’s a trend that I see demonstrated now by several new female leaders of top oil and gas producers and trade associations like BP, ExxonMobil and the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC), just to name a few.

Susan Dio was appointed Chairman and President of BP America, Inc. in March.  A chemical engineer with 33 years at BP, Susan most recently served as chief executive of BP Shipping and worked for 15 years at the company’s chemical plant operations in Port Lavaca, Texas.

Also within BP, Starlee Sykes was recently named Regional President for Gulf of Mexico and Canada. She is a mechanical engineer with over 21 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. Starlee began her career in subsea operations, worked on several of BP’s Gulf of Mexico projects, and held various positions in project management, operations, and finance.

At the end of 2017, 25-year ExxonMobil employee Gloria Moncada became the manager of the company’s Baton Rouge refinery. She is a chemical engineer who is now also the first female manager in the history of that refinery, the fourth largest in the country with over 3,700 employees and contractors.

Nikki Martin is the first female president of IAGC in the association’s 44-year history and the first female to lead an international oil and gas association.  She is an attorney with experience monitoring regulations and representing the association in regulatory management efforts as IAGC Vice President for Government and Legal Affairs.

All of these women and many more who are rising to leadership positions within today’s oil and gas industry are paving the way for young women who are now embarking on their first job, starting college, or just learning about the wonderful opportunities in traditionally male-dominated fields like energy production.  Here at home, one organization is doing its part to encourage school-aged girls to consider careers in oil and gas and begin planning for an exciting and lucrative future that the industry can provide.

The South Central Industrial Association’s Work It! Louisiana “Females Fueling the Workforce” program promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related careers to female sophomore high school students in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes. The event is held at BP’s Learning Center in Houma where female speakers from the energy industry discuss their careers and the immense opportunities in the STEM field.

I had the chance to speak at last year’s event, and I was energized by the interest that these young women showed in the tremendous career opportunities that lie before them, as well as by the passion that my fellow female speakers exhibited in their presentation to the students.

Women like my mother blazed a trail that began decades ago in the steno pool and now leads to the board room. From engineers and chemists to CFO’s and CEO’s, women are making their mark on America’s oil and gas industry in ways like never before, and the opportunities from here are endless.