Fueling a Future of Women Leaders in the Energy, Oil & Gas Industries

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By BEQ Pride Editorial Team

Last autumn the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) launched the inaugural WBENC Energy Executive Program (EEP), a week-long immersive experience focused on increasing the competitive advantage and capabilities of women leaders within the energy, oil and gas industry supply chains.

“The WBENC Energy Executive Program plays an important role in developing women’s businesses as successful future suppliers of the energy, oil and gas industries and further breaking down barriers for women entrepreneurs,” says Pamela Prince-Eason, WBENC President & CEO.

Underwritten by a grant from Shell Oil Company, this landmark program is part of a sustained effort by major oil and gas companies to enable women-owned businesses to become valued partners in the global energy supply chain. The EEP brought together 30 women-owned businesses, industry experts and professors from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business for one week of training, skills development and networking. The program is evidence of Shell’s commitment towards impacting the long-term success of diverse businesses that are critical to the global energy supply chains.

The EEP was born out of analysis done as part of WBENC’s Energy Advisory Board, which includes Diversity and Inclusion leadership from BP America Inc, ExxonMobil Corporation, Chevron and Shell—all of which are recognized as America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises by WBENC. The advisory board analyzed data that showed while women entrepreneurs are represented in the energy supply chain and some are thriving, there is room for growth and improvement.

“The program has been a vision for Shell and our industry as a way to develop women-owned businesses,” Ana Kopf, Manager of Supplier Diversity & Diversity Outreach with Shell explains. “The intent of this program is to provide women who have businesses in the oil and gas sector an opportunity to go deeper in the content, and to understand subjects that are relevant to the oil industry.”

Participating in programs and events focused on the oil and gas industry is crucial for companies that want to do business in that industry, says Shell’s Brian Hall, Supplier Diversity and Outreach Manager. A deep understanding of the industry, its challenges and trends, is necessary to compete for business, and programs like the EEP are tools to gain that knowledge.

“This program is all about development,” he says. “I see the LGBT community as a community of innovation, perseverance, creativity. These are the types of business leaders that thrive on education and development. If oil and gas is one of your growth targets, then seek out and apply for programs such as the EEP. The knowledge gained by participating in these industry-focused programs will be priceless.”

Kopf felt that by limiting the program to 30 participants, the caliber of the sessions and the intimacy of exploring business ideas in this setting gave the women business owners an opportunity to work on their businesses as opposed to working in their businesses. Dinners, breaks and non-instruction times were extremely valuable as conversations, networking and friendships were able to flourish. Consensus from the participants—BIG Business happens here, too.

“We will continue to encourage all WBEs that are currently in a technical field serving the Oil & Gas industry to apply,” said Hall.

Lianne Lami, President and CEO of Bocci Engineering is not only WBENC certified, her company is also certified by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). When it comes to certification and access to great programs like the EEP, Lianne certainly understands and appreciates the value of having both to help build her business.

“Dual certification allows me more opportunities for face-time,” says Bocci. Having access to supplier diversity professionals and other corporate decision makers through WBENC and NGLCC programming helps develop relationships and a helps procurement advocates gain a better understanding of her business capabilities.

“This program has been really invaluable because, in particular, you get industry-specific knowledge,” says Michele Ruiz, President and CEO of Ruiz Strategies. “It’s so hard sometimes to get information about what the individual corporations are procuring. By being here, and it being an oil and energy specific executive management program, there’s been a lot of insights into trends, into the areas that they’re thinking of procuring. And also, frankly, how they think operationally and strategically. That in and of itself is so valuable, because it allows us, as women-owned businesses, and minority-owned businesses, to think about our relevancy, and how do we continue to be valuable in the supply chain moving forward.”

The inaugural WBENC Energy Executive Program, sponsored by BP America Inc, Chevron, ExxonMobil Corporation, the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Shell and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South, was held at Shell’s Robert Training and Conference Center, a world-class training facility used to train and certify oil and gas employees before they start working offshore.

Save the Date

The next WBENC Energy Executive Program training session will take place October 28 – November 2, 2018 at Shell’s Robert Training Center. For more information, visit or Contact Lindsey All, Senior Manager, Marketing, Programs and Business Development at

Business Equality Pride (BEQPride) is the first publication from the BEQ family of national print and digital magazines exclusively addressing the needs of LGBTQ small-to-medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.