Energy executive offices slowly diversifying, expert says

HOUSTON — If it is lonely at the top, when it comes to energy companies, it is also strikingly male.

Chief executive jobs in the energy industry continue to be among the most male-dominated positions, even when compared with finance and technology, an industry expert said Tuesday at the Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology in Houston.

But there’s good news, said Deborah Byers, a managing partner at Ernst & Young’s Houston office. Many positions that lead to the top job increasingly are filled by women.

“Don’t fixate on the C-level,” Byers said, pointing out that there are large numbers of women in senior positions. “You can find yourself having influence and being able to change the way a firm works at other levels.”

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Fortune magazine recently named Maria as Gracas Silva Foster, CEO of Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, the world’s most powerful woman executive. But only two women in energy were on the magazine’s list of most powerful female executives in the U.S. And none were in the top ten.

The industry’s recent growth has created a shortage of talent that could open up new opportunities for women, Byers said.

She noted that women can be quick to assume that future opportunities either don’t exist or will conflict with future life goals, including having children.

“Don’t opt out too early,” Byers said, noting that younger women sometimes drop out before an actual work-life conflict exists. “Give your company and leadership the chance to make it work.”

The conference at the Hyatt Regency Houston downtown drew about 700 attendees.

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