She was the manager of engineering for the project and ran a large department. And she decided to host a big town hall. A lot of Kazakh and Russia women — engineers who’d never worked in engineering before Chevron came to the country — came to the event. And they looked at Melody in awe.
“They said, ‘Can we do what you do in Chevron, now that we’re part of Chevron?’” Melody recalls. “I was 35, and it was the first time I realized women need role models and women need to help other women. It was from that moment on that I focused on helping other women.”
Melody will be one of our keynote speakers for HERWorld Energy Forum on March 8 (register today to attend live or online!), so we sat down with her to talk about her career and perspective as a powerful woman in energy. That memory of those women in Kazakhstan reminds her of just how far we’ve come. (For more from our interview, check out our follow-up story here.)
“When I looked up, there were no women in top-line management. I never aspired to be a CEO. I never thought it was possible.” Melody says. “Today, it is imperative to have women leading companies and role-modeling for others. I encourage women today to envision that they can be a CEO and they can be on boards and they can create tremendous value in those roles. I’m encouraged that women are starting to think about that.”
There are, of course, still areas that need major improvement.
“Statistically, we’re not graduating enough women in STEM. The pipeline is weak. We’re bringing in high percentages of women, but if they are not promoted at the same rate, the pipeline becomes very thin. There’s this big gap in energy of women between 40 and 55 in key leadership roles,” Melody explains.
Add to that a lingering bias in the industry, and the fact that many women who do occupy leadership roles in energy are in staff roles, not line jobs.
“I tell people all the time, ‘You’ve got to stay in line jobs.’ It might be easy to go to staff jobs, but there’s a ceiling with a staff job. And if you stay in the line, you have to work in remote places and deliver superior bottom-line results. You have to be flexible. But at the end of the day, that’s the only way you get to a CEO role,” Melody says.
While those are big, complex problems to solve, there are some actions leaders in the industry can take now to support women in energy.
“Most men will not give women honest feedback because they’re afraid to or it’s uncomfortable for them. Our male colleagues get a lot of honest feedback, and I think the lack of honest and constructive feedback was probably the only thing that could have helped me more,” Melody says. “I would ask for feedback later in my career, and even then, people were not very forthcoming about it. And when you don’t get feedback very much, you’re more sensitive to it.”
A sense of humor also helps.
When Melody went to Angola to run the Chevron project there, one of the offshore superintendents came in to meet with her. He told her he’d never worked for a woman before, and he wanted to know: How is it?
“And I said, ‘Well, I’ve never worked for a woman before either, so I don’t know!” she recalls with a laugh. “We had a great working relationship from that moment on. He always thought that was so funny.”