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News & Field Trips

4 Posts authored by: kelseyardoin

“Dream, Girl” Director Erin Bagwell initially shot down her own childhood dream of creating a film because it seemed too big. She took a corporate job, but was unhappy, her work was undervalued, and then her boss made an inappropriate comment about her clothing.


Erin Bagwell, Director of "Dream, Girl"

“But in my time away from the office, something wonderful happened: I found inspiration from a community of feminists I found online,” Bagwell says in the movie. “These women were strong, passionate, and supportive. I realized I wasn’t alone. I felt empowered and wanted to pass this feeling along to other women.“


Bagwell founded her blog Feminist Wednesday and eventually followed her dreams right out of her big corporate office’s front doors. And the women’s stories she’d been sharing through her blog materialized into the premise for “Dream, Girl”.






“Our mantra is to give people role models,” Bagwell said of the film crew. “We wanted to give women an arsenal to support them whether they’re starting their first or their third company. Having a community is something women need, but especially women entrepreneurs. It’s really draining, really exhausting, and that can be really difficult if you don’t have a great tribe around you.”


More and more, women are taking the leap to start their own businesses, and this significant growth has outpaced that of their male counterparts.

“Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%, compared to just a 9% increase among all businesses,” states the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. “Therefore, over the past nine years, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate fully five times faster than the national average.”

Fun facts:

  • 78% of these net new women-owned firms are firms owned by women of color
  • 842 net new minority women-owned firms launched on average each day over the past nine years
  • About 11.3 million total women-owned businesses in the United States
  • Nearly 9 million people employed by women-owned businesses
  • More than $1.6 trillion ($1,622,763,800,000) generated in revenues by women-owned businesses each year

“We need more brave women in the entrepreneurship realm; it took my second bout with cancer to get me out of the corporate chair,” said Pink Petro founder Katie Mehnert, who was one of the film’s Kickstarter backers. “Pink Petro is not just about ending the gap in the workforce. We see the supply chain as a place where we have plenty of work to do: That is to say that more women-owned businesses are out there. We need to find them and give them a chance to bid and be a part of the energy sector. This is another way we’ll get at the gap.”


The film features interviews of elementary-aged girls talking what they want to be when they grow up alongside larger vignettes of women entrepreneurs and investors who are fulfilling their wildest dreams.

Katie Mehnert, Founder of Pink Petro

One such entrepreneur is Suzanne West, President and CEO of Imaginea Energy Corp., a private oil company in Calgary.


Suzanne West, founder of Imaginea Energy Corp.


The “Imagi-who?” section of its site says, “We produce oil and gas. Over 5500 boe/d…for now. But what’s really interesting is the way we go about it. We’re defying industry stereotypes by focusing on sustainability and community responsibility in everything we do. We’re the oil company for the 21st century. We care about the planet and people just as much as we do about profit—which is to say, a lot. We believe the energy industry can be a force for good.”


Its slick, modern site features profiles of what appears to be the entire Imaginea family—not just the top leadership—and sprinkles in words like “hellbent” and “Aces” to describe their drive and personnel, respectively.


“Business has done a bit of a disservice in teaching us that being vulnerable is weak,” says West in the film. “It is absolutely wrong. Being vulnerable is one of the most powerful places that we can be. It’s where we deeply connect with people and engage people in causes that are bigger than themselves.”


She knows plenty about putting herself out there after having raised $300 million for Imaginea, the latest of five startups in her 15 years as an entrepreneur.


“[Pitching] is a wildly vulnerable place to be because you are sharing everything about you—what you think you’re great at. No one is going to give you money if you do not share and if you do not believe that you rock.”


Bagwell pitched herself to her online audience, and raised $100,000 on Kickstarter to produce “Dream, Girl”. She and Komal Minhas, who is featured in the film as one of the girl bosses and later became Bagwell’s business partner, are even bucking the trend of how films are distributed. Rather than selling their film and walking away with a lump sum of cash, in true girl boss fashion, they have created jobs by licensing their film directly to individuals for public and private screenings.


Bagwell (left) with business partner Komal Minhas (right)


Since its White House launch in May on the South Court Auditorium for The White House Council on Women and Girls’ Women and Entrepreneurship Event, “Dream, Girl” has been screened 96 times in 19 states and 8 countries.


“Our goal every day is to make sure everyone in the world knows the power of the female economy, and what happens when we stop telling girls they can be anything they want to be and actually show them what it means to be a leader,” states the film’s site.


And it appears to be working. Girls and women of all ages approach them after screenings with encouraging feedback.


“Suzanne’s story and the stories in this film show me it’s possible and keep me going knowing I’m not alone,” said Mehnert. “I’m honored to be a part of this sisterhood that Erin and Komal have created.”


To host your own public or private screening of “Dream, Girl”, visit the film’s screening page.

Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (PESA) joins Pink Petro as the online community’s first WISE (Women Investing in Self and Energy) program members. This move is part of a larger initiative spearheaded by the association’s Engagement Committee.


“We host training, and when you look around the room, and much like the rest of the industry, it’s male-dominated,” said PESA Vice President of Communications & Member Relations Molly Smart. “Our members wanted to change that. We are starting with the association.”


Molly Smart, VP Communications & Member Relations at PESA


The engagement committee’s first goal was to diversify the ranks of PESA leadership by putting women and people of color on its board, advisory board, and committee chairmanship with metric-based goals to measure progress. The second goal was to raise awareness for the need for diversity within the energy industry’s service, supply and manufacturing organizations.


“PESA represents the sector, and when we prioritize that it will be recognized,” said PESA President Leslie Shockley Beyer. “I think some of the companies we represent have gone well and beyond the things we represent. Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and countless others have done extraordinary things, but some could do better. So as the umbrella organization, we are trying to show this is a priority.”


Leslie Shockley Beyer, President of PESA


Beyer cautions that this effort isn’t diversity for the sake of diversity.


“Successful organizations recognize the need for a diverse workforce and are ready and willing to spend resources to realize the benefits, such as increased adaptability, broader service range, variety of viewpoints, and more effective performance,” said Beyer.

Joining forces with Pink Petro confers added value to PESA members with highly discounted memberships and broadens the organization’s reach. For current Pink Petro members, PESA brings with it a history of hosting high-level networking and superior training events for technical and non-technical audiences.


“There are a lot of great opportunities for job growth in the field positions so this is a natural fit for us,” Pink Petro Founder Katie Mehnert said of PESA, calling the association a “progressive advocate” for the industry. “I’m thrilled to see the industry come together through the WISE Program at a time when we need to do something different to attract, retain, and develop women in our industry."


The WISE program is one of many recent efforts across the industry, such as mentoring programs targeting women and minorities for leadership roles and education efforts. These initiatives seek the interest of girls and minorities to enter STEM careers to create a pipeline of talented professionals to fill the ranks of oil and gas companies while closing the gender gap.


In fact, these workers may be critical in staffing the future of the oil and gas industry.


“Nearly 1.9 million job opportunities are projected in the oil & natural gas and petrochemical industries through 2035,” according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). “Women and minority workers represent a critically vital and available talent pool to help meet the demands of the projected growth and expansion.”


API projects that women will account for 16% or 290,000 of the job opportunities, while African Americans and Hispanics will staff 38% of the jobs, 131,000 and 576,000 jobs respectively.


If realized, this could represent yet another disruption within the energy industry, but organizations like Pink Petro and PESA appear poised for this change.


If you are a PESA member, you can now join Pink Petro for $25 by using promo code PESA25. This is a 75% discount and is a direct benefit of the WISE program partnership.

HOUSTON—Surrounded by Pink Petro members, friends, family, and even neighbors, Pink Petro Founder Katie Mehnert looked into the crowd gathered in the lobby of Republic Square on Thursday evening and said, “I am so happy to have a home.”




Katie Mehnert addressing open house attendees

Since launching her online community for energy professionals in March 2015, Mehnert has gone from a few desks tucked away in another company’s office to establishing Pink Petro’s Global Headquarters in Republic Square, a wooded 35-acre campus in the heart of Houston’s Energy Corridor that was previously home to Exxon Mobil.


According to the property’s website, Republic Square is “poised to serve as a new community gathering place and hub for flexible work space. Current amenities include a central lake, 11-acre festival field, 20,000-square-foot meeting and event center and Republic Square I, a 320,000-square-foot office building with commissary kitchen. Future plans call for hotel, office, multi-family and retail development.”


Mehnert referred to her company’s new location as “a startup within a startup” and mentioned other exciting work neighbors, like Houston Technology Center, a technology incubator that is now a short stroll down the hall.


Rolling out a new website complete with global career board

As the ever-busy businesswoman Mehnert is known for being, the event wasn’t just an open house to check out her new office space. She announced that Pink Petro would launch a simpler, more user-friendly site that would include a jobs board on March 8, International Women’s Day and the second anniversary of Pink Petro’s founding.


“We don’t officially have jobs yet, but our women are finding jobs through the relationships they’ve made on Pink Petro,” she said excitedly, adding that the addition of the careers platform is the result of listening to members and industry companies through a site-wide survey conducted earlier this year.

This came as good news for Pink Petro member May Yong: “I’ve been in Houston 15 years, and this is probably the worst downturn I’ve seen.”

Her expertise is in downstream process controls, and the oil price has affected her personally. She is now “in transition.”


Taking action to close the gender gap


And, as always, Mehnert is hammering away at the gender gap. Prior to the 6 o’clock event, Pink Petro hosted an afternoon workshop with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to deliver and discuss Pink Petro’s Response to the WEF’s Call to Action to end the gender gap in the oil and gas industry. The detailed plan was the result of several meetings spearheaded by Mehnert and sets forth a framework of policies for tackling this disparity. 


“I believe in her cause—her manifesto—and I want to be part of what she’s doing,” said Karina Izaguirre, a global human resources leader for EthosEnergy, Pink Petro member, and HERWorld Energy Forum advisory board member. “For me, it’s more about the longer term—the mission. I’ve got two daughters. I’ve experienced the [gender gap], I’ve just had male sponsors and male mentors along the way. I want to make sure others have different opportunities.”


Promoting HERWorld

Mehnert also plugged the HERWorld Energy Forum, which is coming up on March 8. The event will be hosted by Rice University and already boasts a list of "dynamic" speakers.  


George Andrews, Associate Dean of Degree Programs at Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business

“We want to partner with the people with domain expertise, and we are so excited to do that,” said George Andrews, Associate Dean of Degree Programs at Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, to the audience, referring to the graduate school’s relationship with Pink Petro.


Rice University, Andrews told the crowd, is also working to increase minority and female enrollment in in his department through a six-point plan created by colleague Lina Bell, Executive Director for MBA for Executives. And on January 20, Rice University is holding a diversity conference to create a dialogue about diversity and to give all students the skills to discuss these challenging topics.


Andrews said he hopes these efforts are at least part of the answer to the question, “How can we transform students to be more inclusive when they go to the workforce?”


Shell, one of Pink Petro’s founding partners, plays a large role in putting on HERWorld.


Johnna Van Keuren, VP Shell Wind Energy Inc.

“When I look out and see the people in this room, I see what is likely the future of this industry,” said Johnna Van Keuren, VP Shell Wind Energy Inc., who will be speaking at HERWorld. “I am really looking forward to March and talking about the energy transformation we are in.”


Connecting energy professionals to higher education opportunities

In her speech, Mehnert said, “If you’re not staying relevant, you’ve got no opportunities.” According to Mehnert, training is one of the top four areas of concern for the energy industry: 1) bad reputation, 2) the demographic cliff of “Great Crew Change”, 3) accessibility and cost of training, and 4) the gender gap.


Not coincidentally, Mehnert has formed a relationship with University of Colorado Denver’s Global Energy Management (GEM) Program, hybrid-online Master of Science degree program, which was designed to develop future leaders in the energy industry.  This year, Mehnert also formed a partnership with Rice University and their Energy and Environment Initiative, giving Pink Petro community members access to education online that connects them to policy making, the issues, and energy education.


Catherine Steffek, GEM’s Director of External Affairs

“We’ve got a lot of synergies with what Pink Petro is trying to do,” said GEM’s Director of External Affairs Catherine Steffek said. “1) We have a passion for the energy industry and the energy industry’s biggest asset: its people, and 2) we utilize technology to bring education to a worldwide audience.”


Tackling the “Great Crew Change” with research

Prior to the main event, the lobby’s hallway was lined with vendor booths manned by supporters and other affiliates of Pink Petro, such as the Houston Business Journal, which first reported on Mehnert’s aspirations to start Pink Petro.

At another booth, consulting firm KCA and gleXnet, the creator of the Expert Alumni platform, distributed the Energy 2021 Report they spearheaded along with Pink Petro. The original work of research shows the long-expected “Great Crew Change” has already happened and puts forth ideas for tackling the issues related to this significant and sudden loss of experience.


Mehnert poses with attendees inside Pink Petro's Global Headquarters


The eventful evening was complete with a tour of Pink Petro’s Global Headquarters, drinks, catering, and cake.

We heard through the grapevine… Yekemi Otaru, Pink Petro member and founder of YO! Marketing Limited®, was named one of Scottish Business News Network’s 40 Under 40 for 2016.

Yekemi Otaru


“The published list recognises (sic) and celebrates the range of young talent that exists in the Scottish business community through profiling forty leading individuals aged under 40 who are currently making a significant contribution to the Scottish business landscape,” states an article about the list on the Scottish Business News Network's website.


Otaru, 37, is a chemical and petroleum engineer who transitioned to business marketing roles and recently celebrated the February release of her first book, The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media in Organisations. Based on interviews with marketing experts from GE, Dell, IBM, SAS and EMC, Otaru’s book outlines a three-step framework for rolling out social media campaigns and soliciting the help of employees.


The Smart Sceptic's Guide to Social Media in Organisations by Yekemi Otaru

“I'm particularly keen on social capital and business network theories in understanding how progressive energy companies have achieved innovative outcomes through big data initiatives,” said Otaru, of Aberdeen, who is pursuing a doctorate in business administration at Strathclyde Business School. She is now in her second year of the part-time program and has immersed herself in researching the conditions for positive market outcomes in digital innovation.

In July, she founded YO! Marketing, a strategic marketing agency that works with engineering and advanced manufacturing companies across the United Kingdom to connect business goals to the business’s marketing and digital strategy.

That is a lot to have accomplished in under 40 years. Congratulations from the Pink Petro community!


We are accepting nominations for our Good News Grapevine. Please nominate yourself or other Pink Petro members by dropping us an email at