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Business News 2009
Business News->Why did so many senior women leave BP?
Why Did So Many Senior Women Leave BP?

(11 June 2009)

Avivah Wittenberg-CoxAvivah Wittenberg-Cox, publisher of and CEO of 20-first, uncovered the news that Vivienne Cox is the latest high-profile female executive to leave the industry, stepping down as head of BP's Alternative Energy business and after 28 years with the company. In an article published on the same day on, Wittenberg-Cox revealed that six other senior women had left BP since Tony Hayward took over as CEO in 2007.

Wittenberg-Cox was quoted in the Financial Times on June 9th, 2009, as saying that the,"female brain drain" at BP and Shell "threatens to deter women from entering the oil and gas sector".

"These women were running substantial businesses within BP such as gas, liquified natural gas, refining and marketing. While people often choose to leave when a new leader takes over, this is a high number when you consider how few women are in the top management ranks," she said.

BP is not alone in this matter, Wittenberg-Cox notes. For example, Shell announced the resignation of Linda Cook, who as executive director of gas and power at Shell Trading, Global Solutions, had built up the company's new liquefied natural gas (LNG) business. And a year before, Shell also lost Lynn Elsenhans, then the head of refining at Shell, who left to run Sunoco.

"No company can afford to lose good people, with proven capabilities and long experience. More to the point, companies today need a balance of women and men at the top to produce challenging discussions, informed by a variety of perspectives," Wittenberg-Cox said.

"A number of studies have shown a clear correlation between gender diversity and higher profitability. BP is certainly not the only company to be dominated by men at the executive and board level. But if companies like BP are to create a better gender balance at the top, they do need to ask some hard questions about why women of this calibre leave."

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