The Pied Piper of Women in Energy

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By Mary Johnson, Editor

Originally published in Bizwomen, Houston Business Journal

Katie Mehnert got laid off four times in the course of her career in energy.

By the last time, she started to see the situation a little differently. What seemed dire was actually an opportunity.

So, when the energy industry started to slide last year, she launched Pink Petro, a for-profit company that connects women in energy around the world. She’s drawn global sponsorships from Halliburton, Shell Oil, and KPMG and collected 900 members in 21 countries around the world.

A HerWorld Forum viewing party in Pennsylvania.
Photo credit: Pink Petro

And last week, 2,000 people took part in Pink Petro’s inaugural HerWorld Forum, hosted at Halliburton’s headquarters in Houston and broadcast live over the Internet to reach remote attendees in 15 locations around the world.

All this as oil prices hit a bottom in recent weeks of $26 a barrel and energy companies have laid off more than 258,000 people. “The industry right now is suffering from a big bust. But, these are the times when people come up with new ideas,” Mehnert said. “People in our industry are hungry to connect.”

And Pink Petro is doing that — digitally.

Her sponsors see the value in digital, given that money’s tight and the energy industry reaches far and wide. Mehnert said she's worked with corporate budgets ranging from $1,000 to $125,000, making the case that energy companies need to invest in their people.

"Pink Petro is proving to lower these costs significantly," Mehnert said. "Last year alone we were able to show a five to seven-fold payback and I only expect that to continue."

Regina Mayor is the national sector leader for energy, natural resources and chemicals at KPMG. She called Mehnert a “pied piper” for women in energy.

For Mayor, Pink Petro hit three important targets:

  1. A focus on women in energy — “a niche we believe that we have a strong footing in already.”
  2. A digital format that would appeal to millennials.
  3. A global scale — with the potential for further growth.

Pink Petro's international potential was part of Mayor’s business case in getting global funds from KPMG for the sponsorship. So she has a strong incentive to see membership go up in countries around the world.

“I want to work with Katie to help make it global.”

Regina Mayor, Nationakl Sector Leader for KPMG

Those sponsors also helped Mehnert expand her audience, not just to different locations but to different players within the industry.

Executives inside Halliburton, Shell, and GE Oil & Gas put together women’s groups within their organizations to take part in the forum. They also brought in suppliers and customers in the industry to promote diversity in the businesses that supports them.

“When things get out inside the big companies, you can go viral pretty quick."

Katie Mehnert, CEO/Founder of Pink Petro

Looking ahead at Pink Petro

The success of the inaugural forum (you can access all the content here) has prompted Mehnert to schedule next year’s event, for International Women’s Day in 2017. She has already launched Pink Petro TV to offer education and another opportunity for engagement. Additionally, last week she launched Petroprenuers (“We’re filing that TM right now”) to support female entrepreneurs. In the next 12 months, she plans to publish a book on the future of the petroleum industry in the wake of the mass exodus of people.

“The energy market has been battered this year, and this is part of the reason why we wanted to launch last year when things were getting tough. It’s just proving that this is something we need and something that people want to be a part of,” Mehnert said. 

“'Why waste a good crisis?' is my motto.”

Katie Mehnert, CEO/Founder of Pink Petro

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