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Coming Together on International Women's Day

Coming Together on International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day and I’m thinking about a man.

He’s the man who showed up at my door with a boat when my home on Houston’s west side filled with nearly four feet of water during Hurricane Harvey. He was a stranger — an immigrant who spoke limited English and was there to save me, my husband and our 7-year-old daughter from the flood.

It’s true more often than we like to admit that it takes a crisis of fairly epic proportions to put our values in stark relief — and our shortcomings on full display.

It’s also true that, in crisis, we’ve proven we can come together as a community and accomplish big things. We can feed the hungry. We can build homes for the homeless. We can look beyond gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status for the greater good.

So, here’s a thought on this International Women’s Day: Why waste a good crisis? More women, diversity, and inclusion could solve a lot of the world’s problems.

[Related: Redefining Activism: Using What You Have to Make a Difference in the World]

Three years ago, I founded Pink Petro, a global community focused on ending the gender gap in energy and promoting a culture of inclusion across the industry and Experience Energy, a careers site geared at attracting new talent.

I did that because, in my two decades working for oil giants, I knew that my industry needed a more equal workforce with women represented at just 22 percent, according to LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace study. Every industry is experiencing a retirement epidemic leaving talent gaps. Tapping more men isn’t going to fill them. When you look at the numbers, energy needs more women and minorities.

It’s not just energy that needs women; women need energy, too. The industry offers good-paying jobs: According to the American Petroleum Institute, the average annual pay is nearly $50,000 higher than the national average (as of 2016). And you don’t have to be a STEM specialist to take advantage of the opportunities at hand. Nearly half the women already in the industry are working in management and professional jobs. And of the 1.9 million total jobs in oil and gas, 57 percent are “blue collar” — no STEM bachelor’s degree required.

It’s the perfect opportunity for women and energy.

The crux of the problem is sheer visibility and general awareness. A majority of women report never applying for a job in energy because they didn’t think they had the right background or thought the jobs were outside their field or didn’t know the industry was hiring or had simply never thought about it.

We’ve got to create the change we want to see and spotlight the incredible women who are already having a profound impact in energy. Sharing their experiences and connecting them together will encourage more participation.

For instance, Melody Meyer spent 37 years at Chevron and worked in places like Angola, Kazakhstan, Singapore, and China— while raising three children. Aleida Rios is the Vice President of Operations for BP and one of the 50 most powerful Latinas named by Fortune. Claire Broido Johnson co-founded SunEdison, which became one of the largest solar energy services providers in North America. And, Vicky Bailey, Chairman of the Board for the United States Energy Association became the first African American female FERC commissioner in 1993. Women are driving a new era in energy.

But, women alone can’t solve the problem.

We need everyone to be the man in the boat. My 7-year old daughter is counting on it.

[Related: Good Men of the World: Step Up. We Need You.]

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Katie Mehnert is the founder and CEO of Pink Petro and Experience Energy. She lost her home and business in Hurricane Harvey in West Houston due to forced reservoir flooding.


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