By Lindsey All and Gloria Romano-Barrera.

This year, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) launched the inaugural WBENC Energy Executive Program on November 5 – 10 at the Shell Robert Training & Conference Center (RTCC). The week-long immersive executive education experience focused on increasing the competitive advantage, capabilities, and strategy development of Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) leaders within the energy, oil, and gas industry supply chains.

Back (L-R): Lorraine Hyde, Teresa Lawrence, Sandy Hunter, Nelda Connors, Brian Hall. Front (L-R): Beverly Bailey, Meg Cook, Connie Boe, Andrew Gaeckle. Robert Training & Conference Center – Lifeboat Simulation. November 7, 2017.

“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 WBENC Energy Executive Program brought together 29 women-owned businesses, industry experts, and professors from the University of Texas, McCombs School of Business for one week of training, skill development and networking, further showing the commitment towards impacting the long-term success of diverse businesses that are critical to the global energy supply chains.

“The WBENC Energy Executive Program sprang from an ambition long held by me and my peers to drive real growth for MWBE’s in the energy supply chain, and we were thrilled to see this major step come to pass,” states Debra Stewart, Director of Supplier Diversity and Diversity Outreach at Shell Oil Company. “The energy, ideas and drive the WBE’s brought into the room was galvanizing. WBENC, the UT instructors, executive presenters from our energy companies and the Robert Training Center staff delivered a one-of-a-kind learning experience, and we are already seeing the beginnings of new business ideas and opportunities as a result. The Energy Executive Program is a great jumping off point for capacity building for MWBE’s to broaden their participation in the energy industry, and we look forward to building on it in collaboration with our peer companies, WBENC, NMSDC and others going forward.”
All program participants received full funding to participate in the program through WBENC’s Dorothy B. Brothers Scholarship Fund and the generous sponsorship of Shell Oil Company, BP America, Inc., Chevron, Exxon Mobil Corporation, the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC), and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South (WBEC South).

“BP was very pleased to support and participate in the inaugural WBENC Energy Executive Program,” states Ray Dempsey, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer for BP America and President of the BP Foundation. “This intensive week provided great industry overviews and insights, along with some hands-on experiences. We see this program as an important investment in the capacity building of women-owned businesses, and this supports our goal of increasing the numbers of WBE’s that participate in our supply chain.”

With women representing fewer than six percent of CEOs in the energy industry, this program supports the evolution of diversity and inclusion strategies among major energy, oil, and gas companies, and further shows the commitment towards impacting the long-term success of diverse businesses that are critical to the global energy supply chains.

Debra Stewart, Director of Supplier Diversity and Diversity Outreach at Shell Oil Company.

“As I began the program, I quickly came to appreciate the cream-of-the-crop professors who willingly and openly shared their intellectual knowledge in their respected fields,” shares Teresa Lawrence, President, Delta Personnel, Inc. “I ended up the grateful recipient of valuable knowledge, wealth of experience, and treasured friendships that will last a lifetime. More importantly, I am confident of the growth my business will have in the oil and gas space as now have a better understanding of how to navigate their space and the role I can play in their supply chain. Shell, BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil’s commitment…just priceless.”

The program resulted from an analysis done as a part of WBENC’s Energy Advisory Board, which includes Diversity and Inclusion leadership from BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell — all of which are recognized on the annual list of America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises by WBENC. The advisory board analyzed data based on the energy industry that showed that while women entrepreneurs are represented in the energy supply chain and some are thriving, there is room for growth and improvement.

“The development and execution of the initial WBENC Energy Executive Program represents real progress in our industry’s efforts to address the issues of inclusion of women owned businesses in our supply chains,” states Dave Feldman, Manager Supplier Diversity, Chevron. “I’m very proud of the collaborative effort that was required to make this first session such a success.”

The inaugural class of the 2017 WBENC Energy Executive Program was made up of a diverse group of fierce and driven CEOs and business owners. Participants were varied in their offerings and placement within the energy, oil and gas industry supply chain, as well as in their racial and ethnic backgrounds. Forty-five percent of the class were women of color, and 22 percent of those were Latina.

WBENC Energy Executive Program Class of 2017: Back Row (L-R): Debbie Lowe, L’Tryce Slade, Lorraine Hyde, Teresa Sharp, Lela Mae Wilkes, Audrey Gilbreath, Elizabeth Abdalla, Jessica Johnson-Cope, Marilyn Stovall Fitzgerald.
Middle Row (L-R): Bernita McCann, Michele Ruiz, Nelda Connors, Lori Davis, Dot Harris, Mary Darling, Michele Adams, Carol Williams, Beverly Bailey.
Front Row (L-R): Sandy Hunter, Lianne Lami, Sheila Benson, Artura Taylor, Janet Brewster, Jan Newman, Meg Cook, Connie Boe, Teresa Lawrence, Ashley Herbert, Kathleen Neset.

“WBENC Energy Executive Program is the most in-depth oil and gas education program for diverse suppliers that I am aware of,” states Phala Mire, President, Women’s Business Enterprise Council South. “The exposure that these women business owners received over the course of a week was invaluable, and gives them a strong platform of knowledge to access or expand business opportunities in a historically, male dominated industry.”

For Michele Ruiz, President & CEO, Ruiz Strategies, by being a part of this program there have been a lot of insights into trends and more. “The areas that corporations are 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,” she shares.

Through this program, WBENC hopes to continue to spur the development of more WBEs in the energy industry, an essential factor to evolving markets, providing competitive insight, agility, and innovative solutions within the oil and gas supply chain.

Janet Brewster, CEO, Brewster Procurement Group, Inc. noted that the industry knowledge taught in the program was “bar none, first class.” “The program was a great moment that brings us to the next level of growth and capacity building with [our] potential clients.”

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is the largest third-party certifier of businesses owned, controlled, and operated by women in the United States.

(L-R) Michele Ruiz, President & CEO, Ruiz Strategies; Teresa Lawrence, President, Delta Personnel, Inc.; Janet Brewster, CEO, Brewster Procurement Group, Inc.

WBENC Energy Executive Program Class of 2017 with Sponsors and WBENC at the Robert Training & Conference Center on November 6, 2017.

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