(11 June 2009)
Wittenberg-Cox, publisher of women-omics.com 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 women-omics.com, Wittenberg-Cox
revealed that six other senior women had left
BP since Tony Hayward took over as CEO in 2007.
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
"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."