Outstanding Women of the Oil & Gas Industry: Part II

Posted September, 2022

Not long ago a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that only 11% of the members of the boards of directors of the 20 biggest London-listed oil and gas corporations were women. None of those 20 companies has a higher than 30% participation of women on the board.

There are plainly still “glass ceilings” to be broken.

In this post, we’re highlighting women in the industry and detailing their contributions and the challenges they face. 

Outstanding Women of the Oil and Gas Industry Part 2
Outstanding Women of the Oil and Gas Industry Part 2

We should here pay tribute to Patricia Lee, a Canadian geologist who has redefined the natgas industry in her country. She graduated from McGill University and was hired by Shell Canada in the late 1970s, given work in seismic exploration and data interpretation.

Specifically, Lee was assigned to work in the Caroline region, in Alberta. Her interpretation of the seismic data there indicated that significant reserves of natural gas were likely. Her reading was contrary to that of other, more senior, geophysicists in Shell’s employ, who believed that possibility was quite remote.

But with the help of some pioneering use of computer simulations, she prevailed in the arguments that followed and, in December 1985, Shell began drilling at a spot she had identified. The drill encountered a large gas-bearing reef. Soon thereafter, Shell started a second well slightly to the north of that one. Again, success. The Caroline discovery would result in billions of dollars of revenue for Shell, and amounted to a rocket-fueled career boost for Ms Lee, who became Shell Canada’s chief geologist in 2005.



Porciello is a member of the bar in Italy and holds a postdoctoral Masters in Criminology. In November 2003 she began as a “litigation trainee” at Hogan Lovells LLP, an international law firm (the 11th largest in the world). In that capacity she worked for British American Tobacco in all their Italian litigation.

In 2007, Porciello began working as a counsel for Maersk Oil, the oil division of the great Danish conglomerate, which produces oil from the North Sea, Algeria, Kazakhstan, and offshore Qatar.

In September 2012 Porciello became Maersk’s senior counsel in Doha, Qatar. This involved providing a wide range of legal support for  local operations, including agreements, operational insurance, and the management of tenders in close collaboration with Qatar Petroleum. In this capacity in 2015 she was named one of American Conference Institute’s “Women Leaders in Environmental and Energy Law.”

Porciello’s career continues to progress as she was recently named Vice President of Copenhagen Infrastructure Service Co. 



Opheim has an undergraduate degree from the University of Alberta and is a chartered accountant. Since 2006, she has worked at Enbridge, the multinational energy transportation company headquartered in Calgary.

Opheim was vice president, treasury & tax, from 2006 to 2011, then VP of corporate development and planner. In October 2014 she attained her present position as senior vice president, finance.

In September 2016, Enbridge bought Spectra Energy, a Houston based natural gas company active in transmission and storage. This added to Opheim’s responsibilities, as she became Treasurer (and a general partner) of Spectra Energy Partners.



And finally we highlight Gretchen Watkins. She is an American, who received her Bachelor's’ degree (in mechanical engineering) from Pennsylvania State University in 1990. Her career in oil and gas began in the US, with Amoco, one of the older Standard-Oil companies, where she was the supervisor of projects and planning from 1995 to 1998.

But her career soon took an international turn. In 1998 Amoco merged with BP. By 2002 Watkins was the president of BP Netherlands Energy, in The Hague. In June 2007, she became the general director of VP in Vietnam and China, leading 400 employees in that unit in an exploration and production business.

In February 2014, Watkins became the chief operations officer (and in 2016 the CEO) of Maersk OIl.

The latest twist in her career path has brought Watkins home to the US. In March 2018 Royal Dutch Shell named her the new CEO of its US subsidiary, Shell US. She will also be the “head of unconventionals,” that is, shale production in North America and Argentina. The two roles fit nicely together because Shell sees its shale assets as a key engine for growth over the decade.


The Future of the Workforce

Careers within the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will continue to grow as they support many of the day-to-day operations within Energy & Transportation industries. Research shows that when companies achieve gender balance, especially at leadership levels, they can yield positive results.  At Caterpillar, we support females within the industry by providing fair access to career development, leadership opportunities, and employee resource groups.

Learn more about Women at Caterpillar and how when we all work together, the entire company wins: https://www.caterpillar.com/en/careers/why-caterpillar/diversity-inclusion/women-at-caterpillar.html

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