Downstream companies launch diversity recruiting campaigns

With nearly half of the downstream industry’s worker base on track to retire by 2035, hundreds of thousands of women and minorities will help fill the ranks through the next decade and beyond.

Valero’s SVP of Human Resources Julia Reinhart, Chevron’s GM of Salt Lake Refinery Mitra Basiri Kashanchi, and HollyFrontier board member Anna Catalano spoke at a special session for female executives at AFPM’s Annual Meeting. IMAGE: AFPM

Developing a workforce for the future means that companies must focus on diversity, executives told Petchem Update. Critically important is recruiting and preparing this next generation of workers.

A 2016 IHS study estimates a total of 1.9 million direct job opportunities – STEM-related and those encompassing other skill sets – through 2035 and projects that Hispanic workers will hold 576,000 of them while African Americans account for 131,000 of those jobs. Women are projected to fill more than 290,000 industry’s job opportunities through 2035.

A 2015 McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have greater-than-the-median financial returns in their respective industries nationally. Gender diversity made them 15% more likely to see these results.

The study also found that for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity at the senior executive level, earnings before interest and taxes rise 0.8%.


Mike Coyle, President of Manufacturing at Chevron spoke at the 2019 Downstream Conference about how his company is handling diversity and how other companies can develop a workforce for the future.

Chevron has formed diversity councils at the local level to promote diversity and inclusion. The company provides training to ensure that employees understand policies and how inclusion is practiced throughout the company.

Chevron has also secured strategic partnerships with more than 130 colleges, universities and associations all over the world to attract students to the industry. The company’s University Partnerships and Association Relationships program supports select universities, including historically black colleges and universities, to encourage minority participation in STEM disciplines.

"We have a set of guiding principles known as 'The Chevron Way,'" Coyle said. "It describes who we are and what we believe. It's a common understanding for all of our employees and all who interact with us."

Coyle explained the vision articulated in The Chevron Way is to become the global energy company most admired for its people, partnerships and performance.

Specifically, The Chevron Way's values accentuate high performance while also protecting people and the environment, partnership, integrity and trust, and diversity and inclusion.

"Promoting a culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion enables us to learn from and respect each other," Coyle said. "We value uniqueness and the diversity of individual talents and work experiences."

Coyle is also a member of MARC (Men Advocating for Real Change), an initiative that was developed by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that aims to expand opportunities for women in business.

Research conducted by Catalyst shows that when men are actively involved in gender diversity, 96% of companies report progress.

"When they're not, only 30% show progress. MARC programming helps both men and women break down unconscious biases and other barriers through inclusion," Coyle said.

MARC has over 3,100 participants, 60% of which are men, in 19 locations throughout the world.

"MARC is committed, as I am, to achieving workplace gender equality. It encourages men to be more active and visible champions for gender inclusion," Coyle said. "An inclusive environment that celebrates differences, backgrounds, education, life experiences and all the things that make us unique will ultimately result in a more engaged workforce, an innovative culture and stronger business performance."


Marathon Petroleum’s recruiting strategy includes a focus on minority-focused educational and professional organizations, including the United Negro College Fund and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

The refiner has created a Diversity and Inclusion Office, which leads its Diversity Strategy. As part of fostering an inclusive and collaborative work environment and to help people better understand and appreciate each other’s similarities and differences, Marathon regularly hosts Diversity and Inclusion workshops and employee Diversity and Inclusion panels.

Marathon actively works to increase the representation of women, minorities and military members in its workforce through targeted external recruitment efforts, military recruitment activities, and minority initiatives on college and university campuses. 

Marathon executives invest time in mentoring employees and takes steps to ensure career development programs and activities have participation from across the company. They also support several Employee Networks focused on key populations – including females, LGBTQ, veterans and ethnicity – which have grown to significant membership.


ConocoPhillips – as well as several other companies – support several internal networking groups that help enhance its employees’ experience, including the Asian American Network, the Hispanic Network, the Black Employee Network and the Women’s Network.

Houston Next

In early 2019, the Houston Greater Partnership launched a talent resources program focused on helping human resource executives and others involved in actively changing their workforce demographics.

The initiative came out of months-long conversations with top-level corporate executives who wanted to increase their workplace diversity to improve their bottom line.

While there’s been a slight increase in the number of women leaders, African American and Hispanic representation needs more attention, Partnership president and CEO Bob Harvey told the Houston Chronicle.

“The challenge in Houston is that Hispanic leadership on all boards lags behind the Hispanic representation in the city broadly,” Harvey said.

Hispanics make up more than 40% of Houston’s population.

The Partnership will focus on advocating for a high-quality, properly funded public education system, while also working with partners across the region to ensure local colleges and universities are producing graduates aligned with the needs of Houston businesses.

Petchem Works

One of the greatest challenges now is that there is a mismatch, or skills gap, between employer needs and the skills of current job seekers.

JPMorgan Chase saw an opportunity to positively impact that gap and invested $250 million to help markets, like Houston, build a demand-driven workforce system and prepare youth and adults for careers in high demand, high salary, middle-skill occupations.

Through a partnership with CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) and EHCMA (East Harris County Manufacturing Association), Chase invested $500,000 to develop an interactive, visually engaging, and information-packed career exploration resource for the petrochemical industry. serves as a catalyst to feed attraction, and ultimately increase applications to training and education programs, illuminate industry opportunities, and raise the number of work-ready job seekers.

The collaborative then aligned with region-wide efforts, and leveraged the work already underway in programs and initiatives such as: UpSkill Houston, the Community College Petrochemical Initiative, Junior Achievement, Workforce Solutions, NextOp and others to ensure is relevant, accurate, effective, and readily available.

Over 150 petrochemical subject-matter-experts and dedicated project stakeholders from companies such as CP Chemical, Shell, LyondellBasell, ExxonMobil, Dow, TPC Group, and Noltex contributed to the focus, content, and outreach for the site. 

Women in Downstream

One of the largest oil conferences, CERAWeek grabbed national headlines for the second year in a row over how few women spoke at the event. Bloomberg reported that “At oil’s premier oil gathering, 84% of speakers are men.”

Diversity was a key problem the oil conference tried to tackle by offering each company two free additional passes for women and increasing the number of female speakers each year.

The American Federation of Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) took issue with the headlines and were even more proactive about securing women speakers for their annual meeting.

“What’s missing in this discussion is the steady progress that is being made. While there is much work to be done, the refining and petrochemical sectors — the downstream side of the oil natural gas industry — are making progress in workforce diversity and inclusion,” Susan Yashinskie, Senior Vice President, Member Services, Convention Services & Programs for AFPM wrote in a July 2019 AFPM blog post.

Other major energy conferences held in Texas also showed progress.

At Petchem Update’s Downstream event in June 2019, key women speakers included Decie Autin, VP Project Management for ExxonMobil; Ann Esbeck, Manager of Innovation at Bechtel; Adrianna Garcia, Downstream IT Innovation Lead for Shell Manufacturing IT; Jan Shumate, Director of Worldwide Engineering and Construction for Eastman Chemical; Silvana Lara, Global Director of Advanced Work Packaging for Fluor; Cindy Gross, Director of Reliability for Flint Hills Resources; Amy Odom, Asset Manager Polyols North America for BASF; and Sunny Lopez, Supply Chain Manager for Phillips 66.

At workshops and panel discussions, more women serving on boards of directors, as refinery managers and senior executives shared their expertise.

“They (women) are a driving force behind efforts to modernize and diversify our industry, through mentorship, recruitment, education and sharing their own career experiences,” Yashinskie said

Nearly a quarter of the speakers at the AFPM annual meeting in San Antonio in March 2019 were women.

Valero’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources Julia Reinhart, Chevron’s GM of Salt Lake Refinery Mitra Basiri Kashanchi, and HollyFrontier board member Anna Catalano spoke at a special session for female executives at AFPM’s Annual Meeting.

At AFPM’s International Petrochemical Conference, women represented nearly a third of the panelists.

There, a women-only reception drew nearly 200 participants for inspiring discussions on effective inclusion practices, career pathing and how to encourage interest in STEM in younger generations of women.

On the AFPM mainstage, a session attended by several thousand conference-goers focused on industry shifts — including pushes for greater diversity and female representation — required to build a sustainable future workforce.

Future of Diversity

Increasing diversity isn’t just limited to encouraging more women and other minority groups to join the industry.

“With the petrochemical industry growth, there is going to be a war for talent,” said Melissa Hockstad in a previous AFPM statement.

Hockstad is now president and CEO at the American Cleaning Institute and former Vice President, Petrochemicals for AFPM.

“We need to encourage the best and the brightest from all backgrounds to join us and be a part of a fantastic industry,” she said.

By Heather McGuire Doyle