Russ: Welcome back to The EnergyMakers Show, my guest today, Founder and CEO of Pink Petro Katie Mehnert; Katie, welcome back to The EnergyMakers Show.
Katie: Thanks for having me again.
Russ: You bet. So I heard you speak recently about Energy 2021, that’s what I want to talk about, but before I do let’s pretend that we have some viewers that haven’t heard the Pink Petro story before; give us an overview.
Katie: So Pink Petro is an online community focused on getting at the gender gap in the oil and gas industry and really the energy industry. We started about 2 years ago just as the economy was taking a turn for the worse and we have just grown tremendously since then. The goal is to bring women together in one place with men to have the conversations they need to develop in their careers but then also to help them find what they want in a career.
Russ: Really cool, so you have individual members and you also have company members too, right?
Katie: We do, we do. So when we first launched we launched with big support from industry so Halliburton and Shell came on board to become corporate members and Jive Software out of California which is where our platform was built. Since then KPMG has come on board, we just had a massive event online a few months ago; we had GE Oil & Gas, we had Spectra Energy, a number of different players in the industry come forward to support. So we’re really excited, we’ve been launching products and services all year long and I don’t get any sleep.
Russ: Cool, well you might not remember it but you gave me a guest membership.
Katie: That’s right, that’s right!
Russ: Close to a year ago so I pay attention and it’s kind of interesting to me how much just energy industry information is there, regardless of trying to resolve a gender gap it’s kind of impressive in that regard. I don’t know, maybe that’s part of your tactic.
Katie: Well it is. I believe that women and underrepresented groups are going to bring unique perspective to the energy story; a story that, as you know because you cover energy, is really poorly put out there by industry. And I think if you ask any industry executive do we do a good job communicating what we do, no we don’t. And with this next generation coming in, particularly with what I call the generation gap – not just the gender gap, but the generation gap – and the Millennials really seeing a huge opportunity I think to make some change happen so I’m glad that we’re a part of that and I’m glad our platform provides that to our members.
Russ: I underscore what you say about the industry. I do my own part as best I can, I like to try to defend the industry as much as possible and they need defending it seems like to me. When you’re quiet about what the rest of the world thinks about you when they’re wrong it makes it look like you think they’re right.
Katie: Well my number of years in health and safety and environment taught me that what we do is dark, it’s dangerous, it’s difficult, but we power the world; we power technology, we power Wall Street. I joke with the kids when we talk to them at colleges, the little underwear band that’s around your underwear is what keeps your underwear up. And the industry makes so many goods and people don’t understand that and so I feel like now we’re at a tipping point where things really need to come to light, particularly with social media, particularly with our world changing. So it’s an exciting time and it’s kind of neat to be out of the corporate chair and into the entrepreneurship chair.
Russ: Well I’m glad you do what you do.
Katie: Well thank you.
Russ: So Energy 2021, I sort of got a half glimpse at it because I was preparing on another thing, but it was real impressive; tell us about Energy 2021.
Katie: Energy 2021 was an idea that was birthed after sitting after sitting down with David Skinner and Kevin Carpenter with KCA. With this generation gap and the gender gap and all the gaps we see talent-wise we thought everyone was studying the boom, is anyone going to look at the bust? And what does Energy 2021 look like because it’s going to look very different. And the pundits will say that fossil fuels is dying and the whole world is coming to a screeching halt and we’re going to become 100% solar – I think it’s great that we move into the renewable space, we need to do that – but we need to figure out where we’re going to get the workers and what are the concerns of the workforce and of the current workforce that’s in place in leadership for the future? What does the rebound look like, what’s on their minds? And a lot of that has to do, interestingly enough, with people, people, people because people make our business run.
Russ: And that’s what the study is about.
Katie: Yes, it really is.
Russ: Your comment about Millennials and then solar and renewables, I’m okay with solar, I’m okay with renewable; I’m not okay with assuming that renewables can take over for what fossil fuels does in the period of time that is being advocated these days. It’s almost scary and in my opinion it makes this people problem, particularly the Millennial people problem – worse because I think all they hear is all that we’re doing now, all that we’re adding, is wind turbines and solar, we don’t want to burn anymore fossil fuels. And even is that’s the way you really feel it’s impossible to get there and keep our lifestyle the way it is today. So I’m just pointing that out to defend the industry and that it exacerbates the problem that you’re focused on.
Katie: I agree and we’re anchoring a lot of our work in Pink Petro with the world economic forum. Earlier this year a number of CEOs and executives and world leaders came together to talk about this fourth industrial great new revolution and yes, are we seeing disruptive technologies happen; the Ubers of the world and the Teslas and the like. But at the heart of it my background in industry is distribution; you’ve got to get a product and then scale that on a mass basis and we’re not there yet, we’re not. That doesn’t say though that we’re not going to become an industry that will be used less and less; sure, everyone I think wants to see all the things that everyone advocates that the industry is against – clean water and clean this.
Russ: I’m for clean water, I’m for clean air.
Katie: Yeah, I’m a mother; I want my kid to have clean water and a clean environment too. I think that what we’re going to see though in the next 5 years is we have a generation gap – I just saw 2 articles not too long ago that were published by Bloomberg and CNBC respectively that talk about this generation gap and the fact that we’ve walked a lot of talent out the door, many of them are on golf courses having a lot of fun because they’re retired now, and they’ve left the Generation X population. Well that’s me and my compadres and we’re a very small generation to begin with and back in the 80s we stopped hiring, so what is that going to create? We’ve got this economic down turn so we’re cutting back, we’ve got less people to do the same work; we’ve got bankruptcies going on, we’ve got a lot of churn in the system, so what does the workforce for the future look like?
Russ: Well there’s no question that the down turn and the upturn before it created kind of almost a perfect storm because in the upturn there were people migrating in – petroleum engineering majors being able to go out and make over $100,000 a year immediately – and then when the market did what it does many of them didn’t get the job that they wanted or got laid off and now has a huge bad reputation.
Katie: There is and I really believe that in order for us to move forward we’re going to have to look at who we have – the talent we have, I think we’re going to have to do some more attraction to the industry and I also think at some point we’ve got to look at what skills can be used to pivot talent to other parts of the sector towards that renewable piece. But at the end of the day is oil and gas going to be completely out of the mix, no. But what I think we’re seeing concerns with, and particularly the study points to, is 50% or more of the people we surveyed are saying they know people that have left and they’ve left for good.
I just hope that many of those people are the more senior people, maybe the people that are kind of hanging around to kind of wait and see what’s going to happen. Many of the men and women I’ve talked to on a regular basis I keep telling them hang tight, the bulls will be here and when the bulls come back we may not be at $140 oil but we’re not going to be at $40; we’re going to have to at some point see some stabilization. And when growth happens demand happens, the whole thing regurgitates itself and we’re in that same process all over again; we’re in that cycle.
Russ: Right, and so the purpose of the report is to paint a picture, okay here’s the status.
Russ: So the report has been going on, you’ve been interviewing.
Katie: Yeah, we kicked off the survey back in April timeframe, March timeframe, and did an initial set of questions and then what we’ve done is from that group of people – it was several hundred that responded, global survey, we had about 85% heavily weighted in the U.S. but we had a number of folks outside the U.S. who wanted to comment. We went to executives, we went to leaders, we went to managers, we went to supervisors, we even went to students to say where do you sit on different things. We asked them things like at what price is oil stabilized? Most saw 60 – 70 was kind of the good point. So now we’re talking to people; we’re having 30 minute conversations to get more in depth perspective.
Russ: Was everybody again or a subset of those?
Katie: With anybody of that set of folks that wanted to talk to us. So the intent is to get some deeper research and then after that we want to come out and talk about what we’re finding. Because I have to be honest with you, I think what we’ve been worried about and what we’re concerned about is this people piece; the competency, the capability and really the culture by which these companies are going to operate.
Russ: The concern is this, the price is coming back, kind of is right now, it gets to 60 or 70 and we’re not going to have the talent to get it out of the ground.
Katie: No, I have a number of folks I know that are out that are very, very qualified, capable people and I know folks that are still working that are doing 5 jobs and just a couple of days ago a good friend of mine called me up and said I walked, I was done. I was doing 5 jobs, I’m going somewhere else; my work-life balance is right what it is. And companies are calling me now saying we’re really worried about our glass door rankings and how we’re being rated by the employees as they leave the companies.
So we’re living in this very transparent world where workers and people have the ability to communicate. Companies are going to need to figure out how they’re going to grapple with that; how they’re going to create the workforce for the future? What does the future of work look like? What does the culture look like? How are we going to attract and retain qualified, capable people?
Russ: Right. Back to your core competency with Pink Petro, I’m sure you’ve interviewed quite a few women in the industry; do you notice that females are leaving more than males or is it kind of in proportion today? Is the jury still out?
Katie: The jury is out but I will say this most of the women that we’ve spoken with have indicated that because they didn’t have the networks, because they didn’t have the things that we already know that women struggle at getting accessibility to, they’re finding themselves without a job. But I will say this, I think that because if you look at just the population shift, you see what kind of workforce we have to deal with, the workforce is over 50% women; so they’re playing a bigger role. The question is can I attract a woman into a very technical, typically not a very well-liked industry? What can we do to support her in that career journey? And we hope that Pink Petro will be a part of that process from recruitment to retention.
Russ: Really cool. Okay, so when Energy 2021 is complete will it be available? What’s the plan?
Katie: In some form or fashion; I keep talking to the guys, we’re still about half way into the interviews process. I do know that if I had it my way we’d be talking about it right now because you know I have the social goal. But we are going to come out and present the findings and have a session perhaps – I don’t know if it’s going to be at the Energy Breakfast or a separate venue – but we want the world to know what we’ve been up to by collecting this data. I just hope that the price doesn’t beat us, you know? By the time that this thing is done, I mean you know how it is, information takes so long to assimilate and the price will just shoot through the roof right?
Russ: Meaning the price will go way up and there’d be no problem, everybody would be trying to go to work.
Katie: Exactly, everybody would be like oh, it’s $100 oil again. No, I mean we want to get the information out as soon as we can so that decision makers, as they’re going through their planning processes and they’re thinking through what they want to do and how do they prepare, that they’ve got some guidelines and they’ve got some things to think about.
Russ: Okay, well it sounds real interesting, I encourage you to hurry; you don’t want to wait until 2022 to put out the Energy 2021.
Katie: The sense of urgency in me – I’ve got plenty of bias for action; I’m usually the one that everyone has to pull back.
Russ: Well they’re watching.
Katie: That’s right.
Russ: Katie, I really appreciate having you on the show once again.
Katie: Thank you and thanks for covering – The EnergyMakers are definitely the people, the movers and shakers that make this business a cool thing to be a part of and I’m glad you cover it.
Russ: Well thank you very much.
Russ: And that wraps up my discussion with Katie Mehnert, the Founder and CEO of Pink Petro and this is The EnergyMakers Show.
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