Women Rise Higher At Shell

Shell has elevated two other women to senior trading roles as well.

Stacie Pitts is set to become the most powerful woman in a world of men. Royal Dutch Shell, the largest global oil and gas global trader, has promoted Pitts—now general manager of global gasoline—to lead its crude-oil trading business. According to Bloomberg, which broke the story, Pitts will oversee buying and selling some eight million barrels of oil a day: enough to cover the entire demand of Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the UK.

Shell has elevated two other women to senior trading roles as well: Carolyn Comer, currently vice president of downstream strategy and portfolio; and Alice Acuna, who will be the new chief of liquefied natural gas trading. A fourth woman will be taking on a senior position: Karrie Trauth, as general manager for shipping and maritime technology.

The four promotions stand apart in the oil and gas industry, which is one of the least gender diverse in the global economy. A 2018 study by the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association and Accenture found that women held less than 17% of senior/executive jobs in oil and gas.

Look to see those numbers grow, argues Averil Macdonald, chair of industry group UK Onshore Oil and Gas and emeritus professor of science engagement at the University of Reading.

“All organizations benefit from cognitive diversity,” she says. “It brings greater creativity, greater productivity and greater resilience. Those that do not follow suit risk more-limited growth and greater fragility in times of economic downturn.”

Shell’s recent appointments are a step in the right direction, says Paul de Leeuw, director of Robert Gordon University’s Energy Transition Institute in the UK.

“The value case for diversity and inclusion is increasingly acknowledged across the energy sector,” he says. Chevron and BP, for instance, have also set goals to reach at least 30% women in leadership roles. “Nonetheless, a lot more can be done to access all of the talent within our collective businesses.”

Driving change from the bottom up might be as important as boosting participation in executive roles, however. According to a 2018 report by McKinsey & Company, only a third of entry-level employees in oil and gas are women.

“Increasing diversity and inclusion at all levels has the potential not only to significantly improve business performance, but to increase the industry’s attractiveness to current and future talent,” de Leeuw says.