Petrobras CEO Maria das Gracas Silva Foster, considered the most powerful woman in the energy industry, addressed the need for more gender equality as she spoke about her personal rise to leadership in Brazil’s national oil company.
“I feel somewhat embarrassed to note that in 2013, we still have to discuss in a setting such of this, where the most advanced technologies are showcased, something that should have been resolved long ago – the equality of opportunities between men and women,” Foster said. “This dream of equality is still a long way from being achieved.”
Foster, who grew up in the slums of Brazil, said hard work and perseverance fueled her rise to success at a Tuesday afternoon session on Women in Industry Sharing Experiences
“It was not easy to get the position of president of Petrobras,” Foster said. “It has been a long story of very hard work and personal sacrifice to the point where I was named number one in Petrobras. What makes me the most proud is having started my career as a undergraduate trainee. I have passed through all the positions in the company to pass to the position of president.”
Diversity drought: Lack of women engenders notice at energy conference
Petrobras’s workforce of 62,000 employees is predominantly male, with only 16 percent women – a figure that is relatively competitive with its peers in the industry, Foster said.
“For women in oil and gas, Petrobras is not so bad,” Foster said.”Eighty-three percent of management positions are by men. We were a company run by men and a very successful company over its 60 year history.”
But diversity has helped the company and made it stronger, as it encourages the careers of women and young people.
“Now it has the first woman in command, and the world has not collapsed from it,” she added.
Foster acknowledged the many advancements women have made, but asked the audience to be mindful that women around the world still face horrific discrimination.
“More and more women are occupying positions once reserved for men,” Foster said. “However, we cannot forget that women continue to die to preserve the honor of their families, are sold by their mothers for infantile prostitution, simply because they are females.”