When Chevron’s Vice President of Drilling and Completions Kim McHugh told her father about her new job, his reaction wasn’t what she expected. He cried. “I never thought in my lifetime the industry would be ready for a woman to have that role. I knew you could do it. I just didn’t think they’d be ready,” he said. Kim is the first female to hold the position in the energy industry.
Having held a similar position at Marathon Oil Corp before he retired, Kim’s father had watched her rise in the industry over the past three decades. Being the first woman to reach the top was still a surprise, though, not because of her qualifications, but because of the culture within a traditionally male-dominated part of the industry.
After delivering a keynote speech on this topic, as part of the ‘Closing the gender gap in oil and gas’ session at the recent International Drilling Conference and Exhibition in the Netherlands, Kim took time out to share her thoughts on women in energy, the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and how employees can bring their “best selves” to work.
“Before delving into diversity and inclusion, I would like to refer to some statistics. Around 30 percent of the women who get science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related degrees don’t use them once they have graduated. And of those that enter our industry, only 30 percent are still part of the workforce 20 years later. This is a tragic loss and something that needs addressing.
“To help counter this, Chevron, and the wider industry, focuses a lot of time and investment in education. We champion STEM education around the globe through programs and strategic partnerships that help students and teachers get the tools and access to the resources they need to take advantage of every opportunity STEM offers. We do this at all ages to ensure the pipeline of talent entering higher education is bigger. Many STEM-related careers are exciting and well paid. Women should not be missing out on them, but they are. For me, increasing the pipeline of talent and encouraging more women to enter our industry is the first critical step of the journey.
“Step two is all about diversity and inclusion. Diversity means you’ve been asked to the dance and inclusion means you’ve been asked to dance – so we need to create an environment where we can all add value and feel valued. Having the right policies and strategies for areas like flexible work schedules and maternity leave is one thing, but creating a work environment and culture where women can see opportunities for progression is key. I’m lucky to work for a company that is a proud proponent of diversity and inclusion – in fact, they are cornerstones of Chevron’s corporate values. We view them as strategic business imperatives that enable sustainable competitive performance by ensuring our talented employees are inspired, engaged, respected and connected.
“Helping in this space is a program developed by Catalyst, a global non-profit organisation that is advancing workplace gender equality. It’s called Men Advocating Real Change (MARC). Adopted in 2016 and recently expanded, MARC is enabling us to better engage and empower our male executives and leaders to consistently model inclusive behaviours, influence more equitable talent management systems and processes and build effective partnerships across gender.
“Change starts with a conversation, and our approach is working, helping us cultivate a diverse and inclusive culture where our employees can bring their full selves to work. This fuels high performance and drives innovation. Our business success depends on people with different ways of thinking, different life experiences and different backgrounds and an inclusive environment where everyone’s voice can be heard. The outcome is simple – better conversations, better decision making and improved performance.
“We’ve touched upon what the industry is doing to attract more people and what we can do as employers and leaders to create an inclusive environment that embraces diversity. I would like to close by sharing a few tips on what we, as employees, can do to bring our best selves to work.
“First and foremost, you have to have the technical competency. You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room, but you do have to be strong in the technical aspects to build your credibility.
“Secondly, and importantly, be authentic and be an original – and lead in your own way. There’s a great quote by the author John Mason, ‘You were born an original, don’t die a copy.’ I stand by this. Be the best you, be genuine and bring that best person to the job!
“My final tip is don’t strive for work-life balance. Balance gives the impression that life is 50/50, with half your time devoted to your family and the other devoted to your job. In my experience, this is not possible. People say you can have it all and while that is true, you can’t have it all at the same time. By striving for balance, you are likely to set yourself up for failure or burn out. Being perfect shouldn’t be your focus but being able to prioritise and let go of some things – without guilt – should be. I call it ‘work-life integration,’ meaning you take what is important to you and integrate it into your work. Focus on finding the tools, approaches and support that enable this and you’ll flourish and succeed.”
For more insights from Kim, listen to the ‘One Woman’s Story: Smashing an Oil Industry Glass Ceiling’ podcast, in which she talks to Beverly Kirk, Fellow and Director for Outreach, International Security Program, and Director, Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).