From the film and music industry to politics, the topic of gender balance has never been hotter.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed feminist, presented the first-ever gender balanced cabinet last year, one he pointed out “looks like Canada”. His simple explanation, “because it’s 2015”, gained worldwide praise and has now become a mantra for the women’s movement.

So how is this key part of the diversity and inclusion (D&I) agenda progressing at Shell? Over the past three years, we’ve achieved a lot.

Because it’s 2016

“Our D&I numbers are getting stronger,” says VP D&I Graham Sparks. “Since 2013, female graduate recruitment has increased from 34% to 43%; the representation of senior women has gone from 16.2% to 19%; and female representation on the Shell board has risen from one to three, moving us to 35th position in the FTSE 100 ranking.”

Shell was recently named on the Times Top 50 Employers for Women in UK for the third year running. And once again we’re the only oil and gas company on the list.

Shell businesses have their own gender targets that are championed by senior leaders. They use the targets to maintain focus and drive to improve in this key area. Hundreds of women have been through the Women’s Career Development programme and Senior Women’s Connect programme.

Shell Women’s Networks have increased to 27, recently adding Indonesia, Pakistan and Iraq.

Shell’s actions in this space are positive, but are they enough? The short answer is no, says Graham. “While we’re making progress in what is traditionally seen as a male-dominated sector, we still have a long way to go to achieve true gender balance.”

So what more can we do?

Inclusive leadership

At the recent Catalyst Awards, clothes retailer GAP was recognised for its Women and Opportunity initiative, which doesn’t specifically focus on women-only programmes, but is heavily orientated to a principle of building an inclusive workplace for all.

Graham joined other Shell business and employee network leaders at the event. He said: “GAP’s focus on a commitment to inclusive leadership really resonated with us because we increasingly believe that this is what will also help us in Shell, to move more quickly toward our goal of building a great place to work for all.”

Going forward, support for the targeted women’s career development programmes that we have in Shell will be continued, paired with building the skills and capabilities of supervisors to be truly inclusive team leaders.

“With inclusive leaders, everyone benefits, not just female team members, but all team members,” says Graham

What is Catalyst?

Catalyst is the leading non-profit organisation with a mission to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion. Shell has a strong two-way relationship with Catalyst.

We benefit from its research and its member networks and we bring our own experience, having driven a global D&I agenda for many years now. Find out more about Catalyst.

Words of wisdom 

“Get out of your comfort zone. I learned that my own personal fears were often overcome by great support networks and help from others around me. The more you stretch and succeed, the more confident you become”

Zoe Yujnovich, EVP Oil Sands


“Be confident and true to yourself. There are multiple templates for successful senior leaders, so become comfortable in creating your own “

Anne Andersen, VP Aviation


“Starting as the first female rotator at our site and inspiring other Iraqi women to do the same, I have learned that it is important to be open to opportunities, take risks and help each other.”

Safa Alsaedi, Field Production Engineer, Iraq

Your role in gender balance

We have a lot to be proud about when it comes to gender balance in Shell, but there’s still a lot to do until it isn’t considered an accomplishment, but a given. Change isn’t just our leaders’ responsibility though. It starts with our individual actions: from intervening when we see negative behaviours, to role modelling the positive ones.

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