Supporting diverse talent will ensure that businesses are fit for the future. I believe that diversity of perspective is crucial for building innovative solutions that will reshape the future of our industry and sustainable energy markets. However, as a trading and shipping graduate working in a male-dominated sector, it’s evident that there is still more that can be done to ensure that business decisions are made with a diversity of input.
While I can focus on diversity through my perspective of being a woman, it is critical that we remember the breadth of different forms of diversity that should be promoted in the workplace.
In reflecting on my career so far, I’ve realised that I can play a part in attracting female talent to trading roles within the energy industry, as well as helping to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) within Trading & Shipping (T&S) at bp. These actions fall under three broad pillars: transform, promote and support.
Transforming perceptions of energy trading
Trading brings about perceptions of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ stereotypes which can hinder prospective talent from applying, and more acutely women, but the realities are far from it. I’ve found that working in energy trading places you right in the heart of the commodities markets and the fast-paced nature of the world’s energy systems. As someone who is passionate about transforming our energy mix away from fossil fuels, it’s a fascinating place to work, getting to witness the pace at which different energy markets are evolving.
During my time on the graduate scheme, I’ve been able to work in two markets that are growing considerably through the energy transition: biofuels & liquified natural gas (LNG). Demand for LNG has nearly quadrupled in Asia since 2000 to meet the region’s growing energy demand. Many Asian countries rely heavily on coal, so using LNG to displace coal demand can have a net benefit to emissions. Demand for advanced biofuels is also growing, especially in areas like shipping and aviation, two sectors that are hard to decarbonise.
Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion through reverse mentoring
When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), it is important to educate and evolve our organisations. At bp, we have the opportunity to do just that, through a pilot project that I and a group of my peers developed at the start of 2020, in which we focused on the workplace skills and culture we need to be successful in a low carbon future. One of the things we identified was the benefit of reverse mentoring as a tool, both to break down hierarchies within the business and to promote DE&I where it is structurally lacking.
Reverse mentoring is set up in the same way as a traditional mentorship, where a mentee learns skills, understands perspectives, and receives advice from a mentor, but the power dynamic is flipped, so the mentor is someone in their early career and the mentee is a more senior employee.
We started by running a reverse mentoring pilot with the senior leadership team in trading and shipping, which was extremely well-received. Senior leaders reported that it gave them access to views and opinions that they would not otherwise have had access to and that they would incorporate what they had learned from the sessions into their roles at bp. We’ve also been given endorsement to scale the pilot up and hope to launch this early next year, involving a broader group of graduates, younger team members and senior leaders within T&S, which I’m very excited about!
Finding support through community
Outside of my day-to-day job, I’ve found invaluable support through different female networks such as bp’s business resource groups, like our female network bp WIN. These provide a safe space to share common experiences and the chance to connect with senior women in the business, something which has been important for me to be able to visualise the different career paths that other women have taken during their time at bp.
Aside from my female networks, since the beginning of last year, I have also been given the opportunity to have a mentor, which has been incredibly helpful in developing my technical knowledge of trading and the nuances of some of the different commodity markets in which bp trades. Mentoring can be another support pillar and an excellent avenue for those early in their career to enable them to think about their development and how they want their careers to evolve over the long term.
So far, I’ve found much enjoyment and reward in my career. It’s reinforced my drive to make my own mark on a sector that needs to continue to become more diverse and inclusive as it evolves towards a greener future. Ultimately, these two objectives will be self-reinforcing. By increasing the career avenues available for diverse talent groups of various perspectives and experiences to come together and learn from one another, and by redefining typical stereotypes about trading and the energy industry, I hope that we can attract more female talent into the sector.
Olivia Argent is a Biodiesel Trading Operator at bp.