The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Working for a More Diverse Workforce

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 7, 2017

Industry is committed to making its workforce more diverse. Now and over the next decade or two, there’s great opportunity to realize that goal.

With 40 percent or more of industry’s worker base on track to retire by 2035, research indicates hundreds of thousands of women and minorities will help fill the ranks through the next decade and beyond. Critically important is properly preparing them to be petroleum engineers, geologists, welders, electricians, accountants, business managers and more. API President and CEO Jack Gerard, in remarks prepared for last month’s energy policy summit of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE):

“We’ll need the talent of everyone, without regard to gender, race, or background. … To address the disparity between where we are and where we need to be, API is working in partnership with organizations like AABE, to increase the awareness of our industry in currently underrepresented communities with a focus on STEM education.”

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the educational foundation to many well-paying positions and careers in the natural gas and oil industry – which itself is foundational to America’s long-term prosperity and security. Industry recognizes the imperative to equipping more students for these jobs and others – particularly among African Americans, Hispanics and women that historically have been under-represented in the natural gas and oil business.

Efforts to bring more diversity to industry are working. Chevron's Greta Lydecker says the company has seen a 36 percent increase in the number of women petrotechs in the company in the past decade. Since 2002, Chevron reports a 68 percent increase in the number of women and non-caucasian men in senior leadership and executive positions. See the company’s video:

Industry supports 10.3 million jobs, according to a recent PwC study. A 2016 IHS study estimates a total of 1.9 million direct job opportunities – STEM-related and those encompassing other skill sets – through 2035 and projects that Hispanic workers will hold 576,000 of them while African Americans account for 131,000 of those jobs. Women are projected to fill more than 290,000 industry’s job opportunities through 2035.

“Diversity” is more to our companies than a buzzword. As Gerard mentioned above, industry is committed to drawing contributions from all quarters of society while enhancing opportunity within individual companies for women and minorities – because it’s essential to future growth and vitality.

API has formed strategic partnerships with groups like AABE and created the Energy Research Collaborative (ERC) to invite outside organizations to partner with API to educate, research and engage non-traditional allies. In addition to AABE, the ERC includes Asian Americans in Energy, the Environment and Commerce, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Hispanics in Energy, National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, The Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others. The group meets regularly and continues to provide feedback and recommendations to API – further proof of industry’s commitment to a more diverse workforce. Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson:

“We want women to be successful in our company. We want people of color to be successful in our company. We want people of different religions, national origin, to be very successful. .. For me the business case for diversity is the company can’t achieve its best results if every employee doesn’t have the opportunity to succeed. So, if we value the uniqueness of the individual, we’re going to deliver the ambitious business plans that we have.”

Below, just a few examples from a few companies of the ways the natural gas and oil industry is working to build a more diverse workforce.

STEM Education

In remarks to AABE, Gerard mentioned initiatives to promote science, technology, engineering and math with students – with some programs reaching kids as early as kindergarten – to foster and sustain interest throughout the educational experience. Some details:

  • BP spent nearly $70 million from 2012-2016 in support of STEM education across the U.S., focusing on teacher training and development, sponsoring student programs that inspire STEM learning and encouraging employees to volunteer as mentors in their communities. BP has partnered with the national Million Women Mentors campaign, which encourages employees to volunteer to instill confidence in girls to help them succeed in STEM.
  • ExxonMobil became a founding sponsor of the National Math and Science Initiative in 2007, committing $125 million to efforts that help schools prepare students. The company’s Teachers Academy provides teachers with the knowledge and skills to motivate students to pursue careers in science and math. ExxonMobil supports the Harris Foundation, which provides fun, academically enriching summer camp experiences to middle-school students from diverse backgrounds, as well as the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, which identifies and encourages future Latino leaders in STEM. Check out this video on the company’s annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, in partnership with DiscoverE:

Higher Education and Recruitment

Work opportunities flower from internships, partnerships and other initiatives that focus on college students and institutions of higher learning. Companies are working with colleges and universities that have energy programs to foster greater interest in energy careers. Some details:

  • Marathon Petroleum’s recruiting strategy includes a focus on minority-focused educational and professional organizations, including the United Negro College Fund and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.
  • Chevron has secured strategic partnerships with more than 130 colleges, universities and associations all over the world to attract the most talented students. The company’s University Partnerships and Association Relationships program supports select universities, including historically black colleges and universities, to encourage minority participation in STEM disciplines.
  • BP has made investments and worked with leading educational and scientific institutions like MIT, Princeton and Texas A&M to discover long-term energy solutions. BP also has programs that offer students chances to learn more about the energy industry, while working with new technologies, through initiatives that have included the Ultimate Field Trip and Discovery Days.
  • ExxonMobil supports the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska, which works with students starting in middle school to increase university recruitment and retention rates in engineering.
  • The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (APSC), which operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, has an agreement with the Interior Department – the Alaska Native Utilization Agreement – that provides Alaska Natives with recruitment, training, employment and career advancement opportunities. The program’s specific goals include 20 percent Alaska Native employment by APSC and its contractors and scholarships to organizations that help Alaska Natives achieve educational goals in specific disciplines. Here’s a video:

Corporate Planning

A number of companies have built proactive diversity plans designed to achieve diversity goals. Chevron:

Many of our more than 51,000 employees, from the CEO on down, have diversity action plans as part of their annual performance evaluation. These plans, which can be tied to compensation, are critical in order for us to achieve our diversity goals. Our CEO chairs the Human Resources Committee, which establishes the diversity vision, strategy and metrics and tracks progress on diversity in leadership.

Employee Development

There’s also a realization that diversity objectives reach beyond initial recruitment, that career opportunity must be fostered through employee development, networking and other connections. Some details:

  • ConocoPhillips – as well as a number of other companies – supports a number of internal networking groups that help enhance its employees’ experience, including the Asian American Network, the Hispanic Network, the Black Employee Network and the Women’s Network.
  • In addition to diversity action plans mentioned above, Chevron has formed more than 15 diversity councils at the local level to promote diversity and inclusion. The company provides training to ensure that employees understand policies and how inclusion is practiced throughout the company.

Again, these are just a few examples from a few of companies to illustrate industry’s focus on a more diverse workforce. Diversity broadens industry’s human resource base, fosters greater empathy and enhances the collective work of industry to be responsive to society’s energy needs. Here’s how Shell puts it:

Finding innovative and responsible ways to secure the world’s future supply of energy can’t be done by few. It’s a monumental undertaking, and it’s going to require the input, knowledge and creativity of people around the planet. This is why we don’t look at inclusion as an act of corporate goodwill. We don’t see it simply as “the right thing to do.” To Shell, having a diverse workforce is the only way we can accomplish our greatest company objectives. … The energy challenges we face are enormous – and we’re endeavoring to put the best minds in the world to work on developing the solutions. … We rely on diverse perspectives in order to make progress that has the world’s best interests at heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.