'Sexual Playthings': Anadarko's Denver Office Has #MeToo Moment
(Bloomberg) -- Soon after Robin Olsen left her job in the Denver office of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., she drafted a letter with her lawyer’s help.
“Anadarko has a culture of treating women as sexual playthings who are present at work merely for men’s sexual gratification,” it said.
Olsen’s 2017 letter to Anadarko went on to describe a toxic culture in the satellite office, where 550 of the company’s 4,700 employees work, and where she said sexual harassment wasn’t punished and women who complained about it were.
Anadarko, which agreed last week to be sold to Chevron Corp. for $33 billion, vigorously disputes Olsen’s characterizations of the company.
Even as the #MeToo movement -- and the backlash against it -- rolls through the corridors of power, the energy industry has largely escaped the scandals that have ensnared scores of prominent men in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Washington and beyond.
Interviews with six former employees of Anadarko’s Denver office paint a detailed picture of a place where life can be particularly difficult for women. The ex-employees spoke on condition of anonymity because they still have dealings with Anadarko or aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Allegations include loutish behavior, such as the supervisor who joked that women seeking to advance their careers should be prepared to provide oral sex.
They include talk about stunted careers, how the women became stuck in their jobs while the men they complained about moved up the corporate ladder. About how men were promoted while women with comparable experience weren’t -- such as the company announcing that the three male graduates of a leadership-training seminar would get better jobs than the three females in the same class.
Olsen’s letter to the company alleges that two high-ranking executives had sexual relationships with subordinates, an account corroborated in an affidavit, reviewed by Bloomberg, from Olsen’s former supervisor, Christopher Castilian.
Women’s complaints changed the company. After the behavior was exposed, Anadarko said it launched a formal sexual-harassment training program.
Woodlands, Texas-based Anadarko’s Denver office oversees operations in Colorado and Wyoming, where nearly half the company’s onshore acreage is located.
For its part, Chevron “has a zero-tolerance policy, and any form of workplace discrimination -- gender, racial or otherwise -- is unacceptable,” spokesman Kent Robertson said in an email.
In the oil and gas industry, just one of every five employees is female. At Anadarko, less than one-quarter of employees worldwide are female. Women account for 2 percent of industry chief executives, compared with 5 percent for S&P 500 companies. One of Anadarko’s six executive officers is a woman.
“We have our problems in our industry, whether it’s the hanky panky you hear about, the inappropriateness you hear about after hours, or whatever,” said Katie Mehnert, the founder of women’s energy organization Pink Petro who was speaking generally and not referring to the Anadarko allegations. “But the culture is going to evolve quicker now, because you can’t hide anything. There aren’t four walls anymore. There’s just a glass door.”
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