BP CEO search is big oil’s best chance to fix its gender problem, ET EnergyWorld

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<p>Currently, women represent only 13% of the oil and gas C-suite in the US and occupy just 22% of jobs in the industry worldwide. Obstacles such as limited access to job opportunities and unfair evaluations contribute to the gender imbalance.</p>
Currently, women represent only 13% of the oil and gas C-suite in the US and occupy just 22% of jobs in the industry worldwide. Obstacles such as limited access to job opportunities and unfair evaluations contribute to the gender imbalance.

Titans of the oil and gas world like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP have successfully adapted to countless societal changes over the last century – war, nationalisations, even the climate movement. But a major hurdle remains: Big oil has yet to appoint its first-ever female chief executive – something BP could soon change.

This week, the 114-year old British oil company parted ways with its CEO Bernard Looney after multiple investigations found he failed to disclose several workplace relationships. What the board knew and when remains unclear.

Appointing a female CEO would send a clear message that the clubby era of petro-masculinity could finally be coming to an end. But doing so will require bucking more than a century of precedent: Only two women – Vicki Hollub at Occidental Petroleum and Meg O’Neill at Woodside Energy Group – currently lead large international oil companies.

“It’s a very tough culture,” Jane Stevenson, global leader for CEO succession at executive search firm Korn Ferry, said.

In the US, women represent just 13 per cent of the oil and gas C-suite, the lowest of any professional industry, according to McKinsey & Co.

Worldwide, women occupy just 22 per cent of jobs in oil and gas, making it the third-most gender imbalanced industry, according to a 2021 study by Boston Consulting Group and the World Petroleum Council.

To explain the disparity, industry executives often point to the dearth of women studying science, technology, engineering and math. But this only accounts for part of the problem: While women earned only 22 per cent of degrees in engineering in 2018, they earned 53 per cent of STEM degrees, according to Pew Research. In the BCG study, the top two career obstacles women cited were not being told of job opportunities and unfair performance evaluations.

  • Published On Sep 18, 2023 at 12:15 PM IST

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