Vicki Hollub isn’t just the first woman CEO of a major oil company. She’s also, as Bloomberg put it, “Big Oil’s Big Dealmaker.” She spearheaded the company’s $55 billion takeover of Anadarko Petroleum, following a face-to-face meeting with Warren Buffet, and was leading it into a new era when the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price war created a whole new reality.
Now, just like the rest of the oil and gas sector, the company she leads, Occidental Petroleum, is facing a rocky road. Hollub also has the added challenge of being under the microscope as a woman leader. Unfortunately, my own experiences have shown me that when women take risks and lead, we’re often judged and perceived differently.
Hollub joined me for a CEO Fireside Chat — virtually, of course — to talk business, leadership, the climate, and more.
On the controversy surrounding the Anadarko deal:
“What I’m most proud of about our industry is our industry has been shaped by visionaries from the very beginning,” Hollub said. Visionaries took chances and risks, and “we're willing to chase a vision that they had no matter what other people said. And while ours is not as dramatic as transforming the industry, it will transform Oxy. And that was our vision.
“Our vision was to take Oxy to the next level… to make us a company that had the much larger footprint and the flexibility of assets and diversity of assets that would make us competitive into a lower carbon environment.”
Vicki Hollub, President and Chief Executive Officer of Occidental Petroleum
Although the industry is facing new challenges, Hollub said she is committed to proving to employees and shareholders that it was the right move and will give the company a stronger future
On women leaders in energy:
Hollub says the attention she has gotten for being the first woman CEO of a major oil company is “overblown.” There have been other prominent women leaders “who made a difference in our industry for a very very long time,” she said, citing Melody Meyer, Janeen Judah, and Pam Darwin, among others.
“I wish that we could establish… some sort of Hall of Fame for women in our industry who have done amazing things,” she said. “Go way back to those people that were working offshore while I was just getting my degree.”
On the climate:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, “there was becoming a bigger movement to address climate change and the perception of the world about our industry with respect to what we’re doing to address it,” Hollub said.
Each year at Davos, “our message has been around (the idea that) our industry must be different, we can’t continue as we have. So post-pandemic, there are a lot of things that should change and will change. Part of that is around how we work. But a big part of that has to also be not losing the commitment to our climate change initiatives.”
On optimism for the future:
“I do want to be around for a little bit longer to see us get through this,” Hollub added. “Because when we do, it’s going to be phenomenal.”