Organizational diversity has five principles, as defined by Canas and Sondak (2013). Those principles substantiate diversity as having no boundaries, a legitimate evaluation of differences and similarities, nonspecific characteristics, being fluid and dynamic, and creating an avenue for fulfilling work (Canas & Sondak, 2013). The oil and gas industry has the reputation of being a male dominated industry. BP, a well known gas and oil exploration, development and production leader in the oil and gas industry, is no different. Dominated by males, BP’s ability to diversify its workforce requires innovative thinking.
The Anglo-Persian Oil Company began exploring for oil in 1901. D’Arcy, financier for the exploration and Reynolds, explorer, were purposeful in the for oil in Persia. On May 26, 1908. after seven long years and significant financial loses, oil erupted from the earth making both men very rich (BP.com, Our history, n.d.). Finding the right niche for the discovered oil was the next dilemma the Anglo-Persian Oil Company faced. The answer was found in the need to power naval ships and vehicles during the World Wars. Automobiles and gasoline stations were among the first innovative developments for oil use (BP.com, Early history, n.d.).
Exploration, production, refining and distribution of oil became the foundation for the business’s success (BP.com, Early history, n.d.) Reliable transportation for the delivery of oil and further exploration was necessary for BP to expand. Helping the communities that BP operated in began when the company used its resources in community service to the people of Abadan. BP brought food and clothing to the starving and sick population (BP.com, Through world war two, n.d.).
The Middle Eastern natural resources created great wealth for the oil company. However, the control of oil angered the 1950’s Iranian government. It was necessary for BP to leave the area and begin exploration in other parts of the world (BP.com, Post War, n.d.). BP had become a global company with exploration and distribution in various areas around the world (BP.com, Post war, n.d.)
Beyond Petroleum (BP) is a company that has been through the tides of change, war, success, failure and success, again and again. The company is on the cutting edge of innovation and technology. From the time of its early exploration, to the Trans Atlantic pipeline system, to refineries, to distribution, BP has sought out innovation that profits shareholders and stockholders (BP.com, Late century, n.d.). BP continues to offer concern for the communities it operates in. In 1997, Bryon, BP’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) agreed with scientists in the shared responsibility for climate change and environmental protection (BP.com, New millennium, n.d.).
The oil and gas industry employs more than a half million people in the United States (Torpey, 2013). Almost half of those employed are in the support services for gas and oil businesses. Support services include information services, healthcare, manufacturing and education (Mills, 2013). Torpey (2013) describes occupations within the gas and oil field including geoscientists, engineers, operators, roustabouts, and laborers. Less than a high school diploma is required for laborers and roustabouts and initially little or no work experience. While the occupations of geoscientists, engineers, accountants and operations managers require a Bachelor's degree (Torpey, 2013).
Oil and gas wells run 24 hours a day in all types of weather (Torpey, 2013). Holidays, weekends, nights and 12-16 hour shifts are part of the employee schedule. Many rigs require employees to stay on the work site for weeks at a time. Relocation is a requirement for an employee desiring long term employment and advancement within one organization. It is necessary for operators, roustabouts and laborers to perform heavy manual labor including using machinery and tools that require physical strength (Torpey, 2013).
The positions of geoscientist, engineers, accountants, general and operation managers do not require strenuous physical work. According to Torpey (2013) the relentless schedule still applies to many of these positions. Working on site for several weeks, holidays, weekends as well as relocating is part of the industry standard (Torpey, 2013). Glesinger, (as cited in Williams, 2007), managing director of energy at Norman Broadbent states, “If you joined BP at age 18, you know that every 4 years, you’re going to move on to something else” (p. 23). Glesinger goes on to point out the philosophy for advancement is “if you haven’t worked in all the departments, you can't possibly understand” ( p. 23).
BP employs more people in the United States than anywhere else in the world (BP.com, Corporate careers, n.d.). Employment with BP includes oil and gas drilling sites, refineries, petrochemical plants, laboratories, corporate offices and trading floors. Including the oil and gas support services BP is responsible for generating 250,000 jobs in the United States (BP.com, Corporate careers, n.d.).
The Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010 presented BP with a major disaster. Decisions required a thoughtful and experienced perspective. Dudley was just the person to provide that kind of clear headed decision making (Helman, 2012). The oil and gas industry had provided a lifelong career for Dudley. He had worked the various departments acquiring the knowledge, skills and experience that developed strong leadership in him. He relocated around the globe making him an expert in the global industry. He was appointed BP’s group chief executive in October of 2010 (BP.com, Bob Dudley, n.d.).
Chairman of the board, Svanberg has an international business background that makes him a valuable part of BP’s management (BP.com, Carl-Henric Svanberg, n.d.) The board of BP consists of executives and non-executives. Of the fourteen members two of them are women (BP.com, the board, n.d.). Twelve individuals make up the executive management team. Only one is a woman (BP.com, Executive management, n.d.). The board and executive management remain homogeneously male and white.
Women from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas filed a class action lawsuit against BP for discriminatory hiring practices after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (Pickrell, 2012). The women claimed they had been denied work in the cleanup process with BP contractors because of gender discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC, 2012) investigated the claims finding BP did not violate anti-discrimination laws. President of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, Mike Utsler (as cited by Pickrell, 2012) states: “BP will not tolerate conduct by any contractor doing work for BP that does not comport with BP’s core value of equality in the workplace” (para 5). Several of the contractors and BP agreed to pay $5.4 million to qualified claimants with any money left over being used to assist working women in the gulf region (Pickrell, 2012).
The Asian-American community has also filed discrimination lawsuits against BP (Buchanan, 2012). The lawsuits do not relate to work directly within the BP organization but with the settlement decisions after the gulf spill. Vietnamese and Cambodian fishermen who live and work in the Gulf of Mexico claim BP discriminated against them in the distribution of funds from the Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program (Buchanan, 2012). Pickrell (2012) writes the Asian-American Hotel Association also claims discrimination of funds in the distribution of geographic area affected by the 2010 gulf spill. Neither case has been settled.
According to the National Society for Hispanic Professionals (NSHP.org, n.d.) BP is an organization intent on equality and diversity. Applicants for positions with BP come from all over the world and are considered for employment based on shared values of respect, dignity, honesty, integrity and a desire to contribute to the positive development of the human condition (network.nshp.org, n.d.).
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC.org, n.d.) is working to establish equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Evaluating organizations on an index for equality in the workplace, BP was given the highest marks in seven of the nine areas. BP, according to HRC does not offer health coverage for transgender individuals. There was no response in the query on engaging in action that undermines the LGBT community which produces a negative number. Thus BP receives a final score of 90 out of a possible 100 (HRC.org, Profile - buyers guide, n.d.).
Since it’s inception BP has been a global organization. It is in BP’s best interest to hire individuals from the communities the company is exploring for and producing oil. Diversity is built into the foundation of the company. In a print ad promoted by HRC.org (2013), BP states:
You have the courage to be an individual.
We have the commitment to being inclusive.
BP is proud to be a company that values inclusion and diversity in the workplace. We’ve made it our mission to seek the best talent from the diversity the world offers. That way, you can be yourself and love what you do (para. 1).
Fast tracking women and minorities into executive positions will enable BP to remain innovative, promote the meritocracy philosophy and establish itself as an internationally diverse organization. Canas and Sondak (2013) describe an ideal organization as one that provides for family leave, welcomes employees back to work after short or extended time away, recognizes ambition, allows for flexible schedules, provides pay structure equal to performance and encourages individual success. The traditionally male oriented oil and gas industry has to think outside of the box in order to provide women the opportunity to work in the non traditional jobs in the exploration, production, refining, distribution and operations of oil and gas.
In 2013 BP defined seven fundamental areas for the organization’s human rights policy (BP.com, Human right policy, 2013). BP asserts it compliance with legislation that promotes dignity and respect of all individuals, honors the International Bill of Human Right, the International Labour Organization's declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Work in an environment that respects individual rights and dignity is established for employees of BP and suppliers. The ability for employees to have trade unions and work councils to represent them is respected as a right to freedom of association. A global organization, BP values the cultures that are directly affected by the oil and gas industry and will do its best to lessen those effects. Seeking suppliers that also adhere to the organizations understanding of human rights is the final priority for BP (BP.com, Human rights policy, 2013).
BP has developed a plan of action to meet diversity and inclusion goals throughout the organizations global framework (BP.com, Diversity and inclusion, 2012). The core values in strategic planning include diversity and inclusion, a diverse leadership is represented, authority is given to leadership to hire, train and retain talent from all areas of the globe, individuals are encouraged to strive for and reach their highest potential, these goals are measured and reported with the target date for complete implementation by 2016 (BP.com, Diversity and inclusion, 2012).
Protection in the workplace is provided to both men and women by federal government (Canas & Sondak, 2013). The discussion of gender inequality regularly leans towards women, however, discrimination against men can occur. BP has established the Challenge Program (Price, 2013) as an opportunity for new graduates to enter the petroleum industry. A graduate from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Gunness is a geologist working for BP. Gunness, given a leadership role on a project, encouraged by senior management, used her ingenuity to complete the project (Price, 2013). Gunness is an example of BP’s commitment to bring women into the field and provide them opportunities for professional growth.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) provides government protection for individuals over the age of 40 (Canas & Sondak, 2013). BP supports older workers through its human rights policy and does not make any distinction on age of employees (BP.com, Human rights, n.d.).
The very nature of BP’s business has required the organization to employ people from all over the world without regulation on race, ethnicity or religion. The organization’s diversity and inclusion goals (BP.com, Diversity and inclusion, n.d.) provide for opportunities for all people within the organization to receive equal opportunity as it relates to job performance and ability.
At this time there is no government protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals (Canas & Sondak, 2013). This is an issue that is close to the heart of BP. John Browne had spent 41 years of his life working for the business and industry he adored. Well known and respected throughout the gas and oil industry, in 2007, Browne, CEO of BP, voluntarily resigned his position (Cowell, 2007). Genuinely private about his sexuality it became public knowledge when a newspaper published accounts of his homosexuality. This event, no doubt, shaped BP’s policy on inclusion, especially of the LGBT community.
Accommodations, access and employment is protected by the government through the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) (Canas & Sondak, 2013). Through BP’s human rights policy the organization provides opportunities for people with mental and physical disabilities (BP.org, Human rights. n.d.).
Leadership in Diversity
Mathematics and physics are the areas of educational study that Svanberg, Chairman of the Board for BP, pursued in college (Hardy, 2009). Today, he is known for his ability to build up international businesses. Svanberg pursues a board that is diverified and striving to meet the interests of shareholders (BP.com Carl-Henric Svanberg, n.d.). In an open letter to Lord Davies, Svanberg (2011) addresses the commitment BP is making to diversify operation, develop and promote talented women and invest in organizational advancement based on merit.
Speaking on diversity at a CBI (2013) conference on diversity; Svanberg asserts BP’s commitment to diversity and meritocracy (CBI.org, 2012). Some progress has been made in promoting women to the boardroom according to Svanberg. He confirms that the discussion in the boardroom is enriched and broadened by having a more diverse conversation at the table. In the CBI.org (2012) interview, Svanberg emphasizes employee’s have the right to have work judged on merit alone and should be encouraged to pursue careers according to ability and performance. Finally, Svanberg states the challenges of promoting women in a male dominated field when there just isn’t that many women who have the necessary experience (CBI.org, 2012). BP is meeting the goal of 25% diversity on its board and within it’s executive management (BP.com, The board, n.d.).
Serving as president of BP Alaska, Weiss is the first woman appointed to the position (Gallion, 2013). She started her career while in college participating in a co-op program. This program provided her an opportunity to earn her bachelors degree in chemical engineering while gaining the experience she needed to be accepted among her colleagues. Weiss states (as cited by Gallion, 2013),
“Our leaders and employees share the same values: safety, respect, excellence, courage and a commitment to one team. Leaders need to encourage these values in the way they lead and nurture the right culture for teams, which enables a better contribution. It’s clear that my first job objective as BP Alaska president is to deliver safe and reliable operations (p. 87).
Yeilding, BP Vice President for Gulf of Mexico operations, spoke at the Women’s Global Leadership Conference (2012) about her experience on an all-male rig. She states the challenge was not in the fact that she was a woman but that she was a geologist. She asserts that after years of experience in the oil and gas industry, “it isn’t race or gender that defines us: it is our brains (p. 3).
The rhetoric (Canas & Sondak, 2013) that is available behind the buzzword ‘diversity’ makes it difficult to determine if an organization is building diversity from the core foundation or simply adding plaster to a broken wall in an attempt to cover up the major flaws. From it’s inception in 1901, BP has hired, trained and retained individuals from the communities it has operated in. An international business before globalization became the way to do business, BP has been built on a core foundation of inclusion. Hiring individuals without regard to race, religion or ethnicity for the position of roustabout, operators or laborers has never been at issue for BP. Hiring women as geoscientist and engineers has been dependent on the number of women entering those fields while in college. BP has shown a commitment to hiring women in those positions. Advancing those individuals to management or executive positions has not always been on the radar for BP.
The board and executive management remains mostly white male. With BP’s commitment to diversity, its belief in meritocracy, and its encouragement of individuals to reach their highest potential, it is only a matter of time before a woman sits at the chair of the board.
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