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Tulsa World: Opinion: Solving the world’s energy problems will require diversity and inclusion

by Natacha Buchanan

Connection becomes critical as demographics shift in the energy industry.

Monday, I’ll be joined by three colleagues from Phillips 66 on an Oklahoma State University panel to address our experiences as Black professionals in oil and gas. We’ll talk about industry efforts to create opportunities for underrepresented minorities, especially at the senior levels.

But we’ll also talk about why it’s so important to keep talking — with each other, with people who look like us and agree with us, with people who don’t, and with anyone and everyone who has a stake in our industry’s future.

The American Petroleum Institute projects that minority employment will rise from about one-quarter of the total energy workforce in 2015 to 36% in 2035. It also says that nearly 50% of new industry-related job opportunities through 2040 will be filled by Black, Hispanic, Asian and nonwhite workers.

As our industry undergoes this demographic shift, it also will be working to solve one of the most important issues of our time: how to meet the world’s growing energy needs while achieving a lower-carbon energy future.

Critical to meeting that objective is not only attracting and retaining the most talented, creative thinkers and problem-solvers, but also ensuring an environment where diverse perspectives are encouraged and every employee feels safe, seen, heard and respected.

I’ve been the director of inclusion and diversity at Phillips 66 for three years, and in that time I’ve seen the company make meaningful strides. We’ve prioritized building a culture whereby every employee feels a sense of inclusion and belonging. And while you can’t build a perfectly inclusive and diverse workplace in one day, I am incredibly proud of our commitment and what we’ve accomplished thus far.

Inclusion and diversity are not new for us at Phillips 66. We have been on this journey for a while. But the racial injustices we witnessed across the country in 2020 reinforced the importance of our work and accelerated our efforts. I am honored to have seen, been part of and facilitated numerous candid conversations about race and equality at work.

One of the most meaningful of those conversations came last month when, a day after Martin Luther King Day, our CEO sat down for an honest, poignant conversation with members of our Black Employee Network. It was deeply personal and emotional, and I understood well what that said about our company’s culture. We are on the right path.

Discussions like these require navigating some of the most emotionally fraught terrain. They will be raw, tough and may even veer off course sometimes. But the connection is critical.

About 50 miles up the road from Tulsa, in Bartlesville, sits the Phillips 66 Research Center. Inside the 440-acre research center, there are 30 languages spoken by people from across the world. Every day, they come together to tackle some of the most vexing, complex problems that will greatly influence the future of our company and our industry.

The people in those buildings are a case study for how good ideas on the toughest subjects can thrive when you bring together the best you’ve got, set aside surface differences, learn through the experiences of others and reach toward a common goal.

How do they do that? They simply start by listening and talking to each other.

Read the full editorial here.