Shell Oil Focuses on STEM, Diversity and Not Repeating Past Mistakes

We’re going to cut costs, but we’re not going to do anything stupid.

Fred Whipple, vice president of diversity, community and workforce, for Shell Oil Company shared this statement during an afternoon panel Tuesday at the HERWorld Energy Forum held at Halliburton’s corporate headquarters in Houston.

It’s a phrase he said he hears often now during the current oil and gas industry downturn.

“We got lessons of stupid. We did things we shouldn’t have done,” Whipple said, speaking of the industry downturn in the 1980s.

For example, in the past, Shell shut down college recruiting and at the time, didn’t see the consequences that were coming.

“If you shut down college recruiting for three years, you’ve got a hole in your system and the talent will suffer,” he said. “Things that are really important to [a company’s] long-term success, if you shut them down, you lose that skill set. In this case, we lost our relationships with the universities … we lost the ability to track people.”

These days, Shell is focusing quite a bit on diversity after benchmarking and determining it was a high priority for the company. These efforts have been exemplified through the company’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.

STEM “is clearly where the opportunities are,” Whipple said. “Women make up about 40 percent of the workforce right now and about 24 percent of the STEM careers. If you look specifically at engineering, that number goes down to about 15 percent. Look at the growth opportunities. A big part of our STEM programs focus on women and people of color … that’s the opportunity for growth.”


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