Why I left Big Oil ...To Change It

Written by:

Katie Mehnert

A little over three years ago, I decided to make the leap. After sitting in a comfortable chair, I decided enough was enough.

I looked around me and while I am always surrounded by the most amazingly brilliant people -- engineers, scientists, accountants, lawyers, rig hands, and just about anyone you can think of, I was struck by the numbers and stereotypes that still plague our workforce.

For years we've talked about it and it was time to do something about it.

When I leaped out of Big Oil, I decided to start a company focused on changing the way we see the energy industry and women and minorities and the roles they play in it. I didn't set out to form another boys or girls club. I wanted to bring women and men together to talk about (and) take action on how we can drive change--- real change.   And I wanted that community to be public so it engages all walks of life to be engaged around energy. Because we really need EVERYONE at this table. Not just industry.

Seeing is believing. No more us and them.

Pink Petro exists because we have to change the conversation.  We need social media to create a place to share those stories and discussions.  And we need a place to "see" that having a more equitable and inclusive workforce and supply chain is possible. That means we have to go beyond feel-good events and work this new way of working and thinking into everything we see and do. We have to embrace our stories -- the good, bad, and the ugly. That's what Pink Petro does.  We encourage this discussion and are hopeful we're changing the way women and underrepresented people see our industry and how men play a role in that.  We NEED men at the table.  This isn't about US and THEM...it's about WE.

And Pink Petro is evolving too. "Pink" "Petro" you say?  Sure, I get it.  But we have to start somewhere.  Since launching, we formed Experience Energy, a destination careers site to attract women and minorities into the field.  Seeing IS believing.

Big oil isn't all bad.

Big Oil is a bad dirty word. This isn't new though. We've been talking about it for years, the energy transition is here BECAUSE of oil. And Big Oil has been investing in the energy transition for years while meeting today's current demands and the pressures of shareholders. It's a tall order. But Big Oil powered us into the modern age and it will power us into the alternative age. We cannot get there without it so let's stop making it BAD. Yes, there are better forms of energy ....more cleaner-burning sources.  But that transition to a new value chain that's sustainable and affordable is taking time.

The energy transition and building a more inclusive (and) diverse workforce aren't new topics.  But they have been buried topics....stories not sexy enough to make the news.  Until now.  And the past three years Pink Petro has played a significant role in getting this conversation and action moving forward. Go google and see all of the press we've kicked up around women in energy and oil and gas. It's now a topic that's getting attention but it took time to get the conversation elevated.  And will take time to make change happen.

This is why I left.  I left to help change it. 

Big oil won't be the same.  It can't. We're in a transition and we have been for a while.  It has been a slow moving one.  But now with a generation leaving and the next in line to step up and stepping up, we have a great opportunity to shape the new energy story.  It will have oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear and other forms of energy.  It will have women, minorities, and yes, white men in it.    The opportunity is so great and I'm optimistic for our future.  But it will take more conversations, more socialization, more action to create the new culture for energy.

To hear more on what I and others think about diversity in big oil, read and listen in here to the recent NPR report.

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