Late last year, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) held its first-ever executive program exclusively for female-led companies within the US energy sector.  The group comprised of 29 women from organizations earning “an average of $5 million to $30 million in annual sales” and coming from locations throughout America.  Sponsorship for the program came from major Energy companies Shell, BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil, and lasted one week at Shell’s Robert Training and Conference Center in Louisiana, offering “educational sessions on topics such as marketing strategy, decision making, strategic management and finance.”

According to the Business Report, the “idea for the program originated from an analysis by WBENC’s Energy Advisory Board, which includes leaders from BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell. Debra Stewart, Shell’s director of supplier diversity and diversity outreach in Houston, says the program went from an idea to reality in less than a year. “We were the first underwriter to get it moving and then our peers came on board, but WBENC took the ball and ran with it.”

The overlining goal is to help women-owned businesses win contracts with large Energy corporations.  To do this, a program educating women on opportunities and preparing them for the rigorous standards is necessary for potential bidders.

Ray Dempsey, chief diversity officer for BP America and president of the BP Foundation states  that he hopes “the program will help BP make headway toward its goal of “getting a seat at the Billion Dollar Roundtable.” Created in 2001, the Billion Dollar Roundtable recognizes corporations that spend at least $1 billion with minority and woman-owned suppliers, as well as shares best practices in supply chain diversity.”

Time will tell if the program can grow to become the official recruiting place for female-led energy companies, but, for now, it is a great start.

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