Ambition and achievement among BP's international women

Last edited: 7 March 2016

They are specialists in fields as diverse as artificial intelligence to subsea architecture. Meet five BP women from around the globe whose passion for science and technology has opened up exciting careers in the energy industry

Research shows that women remain under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. In the United States, for example, women fill close to half of all jobs in the economy but hold less than a quarter of STEM jobs. According to another recent study, prejudice remains deeply rooted: findings revealed that 67% of Europeans think that women do not possess the capabilities required for high-level scientific positions. 

Do such attitudes then show up in the choices people make in their academic studies? It’s difficult to tell what drives people’s choices but numbers speak for themselves… in the UK, just 13% of engineering undergraduates and 8% of professional engineers are women. 

Here, meet just a handful of the BP women who are helping to change things. They represent five countries from around the world and their choices to pursue STEM subjects have opened up a wide range of career opportunities for them.

1. Tove Ormevik, offshore installation manager, Norway

Tove got her first rowing boat aged 10. Now, as offshore installation manager (OIM) on BP’s Skarv floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, she is one of two women in such a role working offshore Norway.

“My first job was in a drilling company in a small engineering department where I got involved in everything. I was the only woman on the platform, but it was never a problem.
I just did the job. I applied for the OIM programme at Statoil in 2005, as I thought that was something I’d like to do. That’s what I’ve always done in my career - I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and just said 'yes' to every opportunity. Five years later, I joined BP as an OIM for the Skarv field, after four years in the role on Äsgard.

No two days are the same. There are different technical issues every day and I am part of finding solutions all the time, as well as a manager with the responsibility for the safety and welfare of up to 100 people and for the safe operation of a valuable producing asset. It’s quite a feeling.

We don’t think specifically about women in the industry here in Norway, because the offshore environment is no longer a ‘man’s world’. There are some goals to reach still though; companies really have to want this to happen and to talk about women in the business.”

2. Vera Lam, subsea engineer, US

Working in BP’s new wells delivery team in Houston, what drives Vera is designing things that will never be seen again, at least not by the naked human eye.

“I grew up in a Cantonese-speaking household in the Houston area, where my mother strongly encouraged me to work hard at all subjects, especially English, but what I really wanted to spend my time on was math and science. It was always clear to me that I would follow a scientific path. I studied chemical engineering at Rice University. Originally I wanted to learn how to make paint because I liked art supplies and they were expensive, but they don’t teach you how to make paint at university.

My first internship at BP, as an offshore rotational engineer, really got me interested in this industry and I started working for the company in 2012 as a subsea operations engineer.
I love how subsea can be very methodical and detail-oriented; it’s extremely important to design, fabricate, test, install and operate with meticulous detail to ensure subsea integrity. Once equipment has been installed on the seabed, in waters as deep, or deeper, than the Grand Canyon, we would only access it again in the future using remotely-operated vehicles.”

3. Morag Watson, vice president digital innovation, UK

The 25 years Morag has spent at BP to date have taken her to Glasgow and Houston, via Colombia and Venezuela. Today, Morag is responsible for making sure that BP is taking advantage of the latest emerging trends in digital technology.

“I studied mathematics, computer science and music at degree-level; there were 140 boys and 10 girls in my computing class and the top four were all girls. I use the skills and knowledge I gained there to understand the latest technological developments and how they might apply to BP. My role requires critical thinking to work out how to tackle some of BP’s opportunities and problems. I love finding new ways to do things; I created a three-dimensional immersive visual environment that subsurface teams can ‘walk through’ and that we are using very successfully in BP as a tool to help us find more oil.
I work with leading technology companies in Silicon Valley. I get to see things going on in labs that most customers don’t ever get to see, such as artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality, things that can transform our company, our industry and the world. My job is to experiment and probe the latest and greatest technology coming out of the digital space - I have one of the coolest jobs in BP!”

4. Dina Mendes, process engineer, Angola

Dina supports BP’s Greater Plutonio FPSO offshore Angola; from the onshore base with a direct link to the vessel, she provides constant real-time surveillance of the oil production process.

“Growing up, I was very inquisitive; I always wanted to understand how cars move and how raw materials are turned into things like soap. I joined BP in 2006, first spending time in the UK as an apprentice technician, completing an Open University engineering degree. I then joined the three-year Challenge programme, designed to develop graduates. 

I’ve been exposed to many different areas and gained so much experience. I love everything about my job, but in particular I’m thrilled when the engineering solutions that I work on are implemented safely offshore. Breaking into a male-dominated environment was the biggest challenge, but there was a lot of support from my peers. If you put no limitations on yourself, no one will see any limitations in you.”

5. Polina Zabelina, materials and corrosion engineer, Russia

Coming from Siberia, Polina has been well-versed in challenging environments. Her role as a corrosion engineer plays an important part in equipment integrity. She is currently seconded from BP’s upstream engineering centre to the West Nile Delta project in Egypt and is based in London.

“I always had a fascination with chemistry and the fact that chemistry surrounds us   ̶   it is everywhere.
I attended Omsk State Technical University to study chemical engineering. Now I work on the management of corrosion and erosion in pipelines, vessels and other process equipment.
Corrosion management is absolutely vital so that we don’t have integrity issues that could lead to leaks. 

My work first took me to the remote island of Sakhalin in the far east of Russia for four years. I then moved to BP in 2012 to work as a corrosion engineer. There are so many great opportunities for engineers to make a big difference to things that really matter. I don’t think about being a woman in this field; gender doesn’t matter in the work place, I am a professional first.”

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