International Women's Day

Ensuring a better gender balance across the workforce is critical to BP’s D&I ambition. In support of International Women’s Day 2018 #PressforProgress campaign, here you can find out more about some of the inspirational people that work at BP and what progress means to them

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Aleida Rios is Vice President of Operations for BP in the Gulf of Mexico. Having worked for BP for 26 years, she began her career as an intern whilst still at university, and has since built up a wealth of experience as an engineer in the field.

As a working mother of three teenage boys, she says motherhood has never impacted her ability to succeed at BP: “BP has always made me feel that I can be myself and bring my whole self to work, that included when I was the only female in the field, or when I was pregnant three times in close succession. I was offered a site operations manager’s position while I was 8 months pregnant with my second child. That gave me an amazing amount of confidence at a time in my life when I was thinking “can I do this?”

Why representation matters

Aleida is a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion, and believes in the power of education to empower people. If she wasn’t working at BP, she could see herself working in STEM advocacy for under-represented groups. “I have a strong belief that education is the one thing we have in this world that creates parity and opportunities for progress. My passion ultimately revolves around access to quality education opportunities for all, particularly in STEM.”

Moreover, as a Mexican-born US citizen, Aleida notes the importance of her heritage in inspiring her work for BP. “The one thing that I was good at was Math – the universal language – I did not need to speak English to add, subtract and multiply.” This pattern continued - “once I found that love for my career, I had that fierceness to fight for my career, at times with my family and friends who grew up in a  different culture with very different expectations for women. My aspirations, coaches and mentors broke past my cultural constraints.”

“I am most proud of the ‘culture of care’ at BP. We always stand up for doing the right thing. I am also proud of how BP has publicly stood up for minority and women ambitions.”

Pushing for industry progress

Having worked in the industry for 26 years, Aleida has witnessed a great deal of change. “When I first started at BP there wasn’t even a women’s restroom in the field. Now, out of the four BP operated assets in the Gulf of Mexico, two of those sites are led by women, which is the first time ever in the Gulf of Mexico. I am very proud of that progress for BP.

“We are recruiting nearly an equal number of females and males in our early careers programmes (even as high as over 45% of new recruits are female). There is also the culture and expectation that people will be treated equally and fairly at BP from entry level onwards.”

This culture of fairness is something she has been able to count on throughout her time at BP. “I believe I have stayed in this job because of the confidence I got from my mentors that I could do it. I have always had leaders that focused on the quality of my work rather than the fact that I’m a woman.”


Amanda Woollard is General Manager for Retail in Australia for Company-owned, Company-operated businesses (COCO). Having begun her career as a school teacher, Amanda transitioned into the world of retail, beginning with hospitality before progressing to roles in the fashion industry and subsequently with BP since 1999 on retail operations.

Reflecting on her career she notes that she “specifically enjoyed leadership roles, big teams and responsibility of delivering a profitable business, all transferrable skills between industries. I’ve cemented those focus areas as my career foundations.”

And throughout her career, she has found that: “If you work hard – roll up your sleeves, back yourself and step out of your comfort zone, that’s where you do most of your learning and always aim to have fun doing what you do.”

Personal #BPprogress

Amanda perceives progress as: “Having more women in senior roles, and more women to be considered in the first instance for senior roles, or any roles for that matter. I think true progress will be when that consideration becomes quite unconscious.”

Progress in motion

However she perceives that whilst BP has made progress, there is still work to do: “When we are recruiting we have to think differently; that is, how we engage females when the recruitment advert is not working. We need to take the extra time required to ensure we have female candidates in the recruitment pool, it is absolutely the right thing to do. Across COCO we have now reached a 50:50 gender balance in state managers, which I am really proud of and I see the added value gender diversity brings to our business.”

Future progress

When considering how to push for further progress, Amanda highlights that: “One of the challenges we generally have is society. The societal “norms” ,  influence how we think and act which makes it that little more challenging when you are trying to push against what is considered the status quo. It’s natural that the workplace reflects the social norms and it takes courage to lead the change. It’s great to work for an organisation that has the courage to push for progress.

“From a BP perspective, we need to continually drive the D&I agenda and be overt about it; share stories and focus on our targets. It really is all about education and communication, which we can do through sharing our stories.”


Andy Milnes is the Regional Business Unit Leader for BP’s Supply and Trading business in Europe and Africa, and has had a long career working for BP. After joining the graduate scheme in 1988, Andy began as a trader and has since worked in a number of management roles. With experience working in China, India and the Middle East, Andy is currently based in the UK, manging trading operations in overseas markets.

An unconventional start

Andy had an unconventional start to his career at BP. “I left home at 16 to go into the navy because I didn’t do A Levels. So I found my way into university and into BP from a very different route than my normal generation did.”

An unconventional start

Andy had an unconventional start to his career at BP. “I left home at 16 to go into the navy because I didn’t do A Levels. So I found my way into university and into BP from a very different route than my normal generation did.”

Reflecting on what motivated his initial career choice and why he has stayed with the company for so long he says, “no two days are the same with the markets changing, with supply and demand balances changing almost by the minute. It’s the fast pace of the supply and trading environment that I think appealed to me.”

He also relishes the varied nature of working for BP. “I realised that I could do more with my degree and my education than just engineering”.

Championing change

Andy stresses the importance of BP’s leadership in ensuring diversity of thought, emphasising how it is now “more important than ever that you build teams that have diversity of thought and have leaders who are inclusive.

“A real turning point in my career was realising that that responsibility as the senior leader was to worry about the makeup of the team and worry about the diversity of thought that was being brought into the business.”

Work still to be done

While he does acknowledge that both BP and the broader field still has a way to go in terms of fostering gender diversity globally, Andy is determined to see this change. “The industry has a view that women don’t want to come into energy, women don’t find energy appealing, or minorities don’t find energy appealing and I think that victim mentality leads to the idea that we can’t do anything about it. And I think that is absolute nonsense.

“We have to start creating structures where that talent wants to find us, not that we have to go and find it.

“We also need to be more cognizant of how to build up the confidence of female leaders when they are going on maternity leave, to make sure that they can go and enjoy this wonderful experience but they can be sure that they are still going to be looked after when they come back.”


Asmahan Mustafa is an HR Advisor for BP in Oman. Having joined as an intern in 2014, she quickly progressed from the internship to BP’s graduate challenge programme. Asmahan has recently completed the three year graduate scheme and has taken on her current role in the Oman HR team.

Why this role?

Asmahan reflects on the inspiration for her career choice: “I’m not a very technical person, and I wasn’t fond of maths and science at school. I like things that involve reading and dealing with people, and I’m also a very patient listener, so I thought that HR would suit me well. If I weren’t in this career, I would probably have become a psychologist.”

“I was drawn to BP, as its values seemed like a natural fit for me – Safety, Respect, Excellence, Courage, One Team – I think these are really important and they really work. It’s the values that make me proud of BP.”

Most importantly, she has found a role that she relishes: “If I had one bit of advice, I would say love what you do and do what you love. That’s really important – to be passionate about what you do.”

Personal #BPprogress

Asmahan has made great strides since joining BP. “Progress for me means working on our weaknesses in order to achieve success. A person should get to know their weaknesses. For me that was facing my fears. I am a very introverted, but last year I challenged myself to enter BP’s Technofest – an internal competition.”

“I won Technofest in Oman, and I was the first female Challenger (graduate) to go to the UK from Oman and present my project to senior leaders.”

Pushing for industry progress

While recognising that there is still more to do, Asmahan is proud of the progress that has been made so far: “While at BP we do currently have more males in the field than females, we are one of the companies actively encouraging females to apply and we do have women working in the field, which is very rare in Oman.”  

“As part of my role, I currently handle all the programmatic hiring in Oman, and we work hard to ensure we have a diverse pool of applicants. As part of that, I do a lot of local branding for our programme. We aim to have a balance of applicants from males and females and have developed specific branding strategies to support those recruitment efforts.”


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Elise Peng is a Lead Analyst working in BP’s Supply and Trading business in Singapore. After studying chemical engineering in Singapore and the UK, and gaining experience in the banking sector, Elise decided to pursue a career in the oil industry – her “bread and butter”. Elise took on the role at BP 6 years ago and has recently completed a company-funded masters in economics.

Reasons for joining the BP trading floor

The role of Lead Analyst attracted Elise because she is passionate about understanding the current state of the world and solving puzzles. As a challenge-loving individual, Elise knew from previous job experiences that she was looking for a stimulating and exciting job.

“From my banking internships I knew that getting somewhere that was more challenging would really suit my personality. I heard that the BP role was challenging, very dynamic and that it was a data analysis job - something that I knew I was interested in.”

Elise also enjoys the day-to-day working environment because she can learn from her colleagues. “The traders I work with are highly efficient and highly capable, which shows me where I need to catch-up. I really feel the energy to keep pace with people every day, which I enjoy too, overcoming challenges and puzzles.”

Boosting women’s career confidence

Reflecting on her efforts to promote the greater gender diversity at BP, Elise says she makes a conscious effort to hire a balanced workforce, and this is shown in her team. “The gender ratio is around 50:50”, she says.

As well as recruitment, Elise undertakes informal training of female talent. “What we are seeing is that females are typically less confident compared to male counterparts. What I have been trying to do is to bring up the confidence level in female candidates so the male and the female candidates can be on the same playing field.”

Outside of BP, Elise is a vocal advocate of the promotion of women in the energy industry, having spoken at events last year as “a way for us to show that the energy industry is not just about males, there are women working in the industry as well.”

What does #BPprogress mean to you

To Elise, progress is the mind-set of constantly pushing the status quo. “To me, progress means moving forward and always improving – never stopping. It is really about keeping pace with the rest and going beyond that.”

Elise attributes her personal progress to training, innovation and flexibility at BP. “Flexibility is something that I really value, rather than having line managers holding on to the book. They actually fight for employees and this helps with career development.”

As well as this flexibility, the formal training opportunities have also been essential for Elise’s personal progress: “when I was involved in a leadership training course, I had a personal coach who gave me a very important piece of advice that I remind myself of; that is to always challenge yourself every day, always try to break out of your comfort zone.”


May Zheng is Head of the Shareholder Office for Acetyls and Aromatics in Asia, having worked for BP for over 16 years in 9 different roles. After joining as a learning engineer for the newly established BP Zhuhai in 2001, May was quickly promoted, working in areas including: technical, strategic development, supply chain management and Joint Venture management.  

Rising to the challenge

May likes to be challenged, and enjoys the opportunities and flexibility that a career with BP has provided. “I am a person that always has a positive mind-set and is always trying to explore new worlds and all the different sections of the population.

“I’ve worked for BP for 16 years and I’ve always had different roles so I’m quite happy with who I am and I’m always ready to explore new worlds, new possibilities. I’m the type of person who always tries or enjoys new challenges and adapts to changes.”

How has BP supported you?

May acknowledges the role BP has played in helping her to succeed. “BP really tries to let everybody think in terms of aspiration, what you want to try, and what your future development means. That has really changed my mind.

“I can be a better version of myself every single day, I can be stronger every day, both physically and mentally, I can contribute more to others, and to society. If you focus on progress day by day, and let yourself enjoy improvements, you are growing and developing.”

She now tries to encourage others to think in a similar way, “not only do I share my own development and aspirations now, but I try and help others by letting them know my own experience here, and letting them know how the company can support us.

“I feel proud of BP’s culture and people. If I think about what support I have been given, from the upper management team, some of them know me well but some of them don’t even know me, but whenever I come to them I get advice and coaching.”

Understanding female perspectives

May has played a role in encouraging BP’s move towards gender equality in China. “I informally try to influence more people to think about what gender equality actually is, because if you only think - ‘I’m good and I respect women’ - that is probably not enough. I try to let people know that if you are trying to promote diverse females, you should understand their perspectives.”

“That’s why I think it’s great that in recruitment, we always make sure there is a female interviewer on the panel to give a different perspective when we make decisions.”


Neo Swee Sian is a Compliance Manager at BP, based in Singapore, and has been working for the company for over eight years. After completing her degree in chemical engineering, Neo worked as a production engineer and later as a Plant Manager, after which she made the move to BP where she now manages HSE (health, safety and environment) compliance on a regional level.

Improving confidence at work

The production department is where the real action and excitement happens.

Being present on-site was influential for Neo, as she reflects: “You get to interact with operators to exchange ideas and actually improve things - you see results.”

Her on-site experiences have also improved her self-confidence: “Subconsciously, it has shaped my mind-set to think I can do this. When I’m at work I don't really think about my gender. We are doing a lot of manual work, a lot of lifting and pushing. We all do it together so I think that shaped my mind and makes me feel that I can do this and that I want to do this.”

Aside from the role itself, Neo is proud of BP’s open culture and work environment. It is this atmosphere that “makes people feel comfortable and drives trust with the line management. It helps you to work better when you have good colleagues around - not only colleagues but friends as well.”  

Reflections on driving gender equality in the workplace

For Neo, the key driver of gender equality in the workplace is overcoming traditional norms and stereotypes: “progress means not only having more female senior leadership in the industry, but really trying to break down gender stereotypes. I feel that there is a lot of stereotyping based on gender, for example, often we hear people say that men are not so sensitive, that women are not able to work under extreme pressure and, to me, this stereotyping is incorrect.”

In order to achieve this, Neo considers three aspects to be crucial: participating in promotional activities, actively looking for female candidates when recruiting, and leading the change you want to see in your personal life: “I think breaking down those barriers comes from the self and from the family and it has to start young. That’s why “in my personal life, I always like to break down the stereotyping of my friends and family, because to me, it just doesn't make sense.”

Pushing for industry progress

Neo has seen significant change in the oil and gas industry since she started her career. “If I compare it with my time when I was a student, I used to hear that zero females worked on the offshore platforms, but I can see now things are changing. And BP is a part of the change as well.”

The reason for this is BP’s global diversity and inclusion (D&I) plan. She explains: “All the leaders must have one D&I action point as part of their KPIs. This is getting leaders involved and committed to promoting the D&I agenda.

And for Neo, diversity is a business critical issue: “Females are half of the workforce. If women don't play an identical role in the labour market, then we are not getting the maximum economic value from this group of the workforce.”


Nigar Jalilova is a Process and Process Safety Engineering Team Leader within the Discipline Engineering Team, looking after Offshore Platforms. Having graduated with both a Bachelors and Master’s degree from Azerbaijan State Industrial University as a chemical engineer, she joined BP in July 1999.

She recollects that: “When I started at BP I was the only female process engineer at that time in Baku. However, there are a lot of career opportunities within BP today, and especially within the AGT region.”

“I’ve been involved in both offshore and onshore engineering, and have also had opportunities to take on other projects, allowing me to gain experience in the frontline, as well as the ‘back stage’.

Each of these roles have really helped me to build up my experience and technical skills, to the point where I decided to become a Team Leader.”

Personal #BPprogress

Nigar reflects that progress to her “means accepting women in a male-dominated environment in the same role as men, in other words, women’s expertise should be regarded at the same level as men’s. That is what progress means for me as a woman and an engineer.”

Reflections on industry progress

With nearly two decades of experience, Nigar has observed great industry change: “Looking back at the industry, starting at BP in 1999 as the only female process engineer in BP Azerbaijan, there has definitely been huge progress in terms of the D&I agenda since then.”

“There are many more females going into engineering nowadays, solving problems and doing jobs that were previously associated with men. BP is definitely the leading company in terms of D&I across the industry. If you look at the pool of engineering candidates, more and more females are interested in engineering roles in particular.”

How to maintain the push for progress

She notes that: “For some women, it is very difficult to maintain their work-life balance as they progress up the career ladder, and most of them seem to choose family. If we work more on work-life balance policies I think it would greatly contribute to a higher level of senior female representation. That’s one of the things that is maybe holding females back – the fact that the more you progress the more time you will need to dedicate to work. So I think some step changes in work-life balance could really help.”

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