Mrs. Priscilla Thorpe- Apezteguia is the immediate past Managing Director of MRS Oil. In this interview she speaks on why it is necessary to support gender inclusivity in the energy sector. Funmi Ogundare brings the excerpts:
Since you came on board, how have you been able to lay the foundation for corporate governance in MRS Oil?
Good corporate guidelines is not only about applying rules and to meet the requirement, it is more than that. Good corporate governance can only be achieved when top representatives act as role models, demonstrate integrity and credibility on a daily basis. Communication plays a key role for effective corporate governance.
During my time at MRS, my focus was to ensure that my employees were clear on their roles and responsibilities, there was clear alignment of strategies and goals, employees were made to take ownership and be accountable for their actions and there was a focus to ensure employees had a profound commitment to promote ethical behavior in order to build trust.
How would you describe your impact in the area of training and ensuring that staff performed optimally for organisation’s growth and development?
Learning strengthens the talent bench and enables an organization to go where it has not gone. Employee training and development fosters innovation, thereby creating and embracing a culture of imagination, while fostering smart risk taking, and developing a staff who can stay one step ahead of the next disruption. During my time at MRS, I worked closely with the human resources to develop and identify programs that will aid organisational learning in action, in order to align business strategy of the organisation and implement successful learning strategies across board to drive growth in a complex and uncertain business environment.
In what ways have you been able to maintain professional discipline among staff?
It was important to identify what type of culture we had in the organisation, and decide what kind of culture matters there. I had to own the culture agenda, implement reinforcing solutions, monitor, learn and adapt as we go. It was critical for me to strengthen a culture of discipline, through leadership by changing and adapting to structures, systems and practices that promote and foster discipline, respect and trust in order to create organisational effectiveness and collaborative success.
Innovation plays a pivotal role in the development of the oil and gas industry, what effort did you play in galvanising this among staff?
People are the most important resource in the innovation process. Its success depends on creativity, support and the acceptance by people. For me, the focus for me has always been to have structures and framework conditions, so that innovation potential can be identified, ideas generated and implementation is successful. Innovation management is key. It is best to have clear objectives, with a clear vision of what the management wants. That way your staff have clear expectations that are defined and they understand the design of the innovation process. Again communication, communication and more communication.
Considering the fact that women are underrepresented in the energy sector, how can you close this gap?
Women are driving change. The energy sector is far behind other parts of the economy in women’s participation. Gender balance is an issue ranging from girls to young women’s participation rates in science, technology and mathematics education to women employed in the energy sector, all the way up through women in management, and in boards of energy companies. The only way I can close the gap is through advocacy, engagement and creating more awareness to encourage more women participation, diversity and inclusion. I am currently involved in an NGO called the Women in Energy Network (WIEN) alongside very incredible and highly talented women advocating, towards the promotion of women participation, career advancement across the energy value chain and to advocating for policies and regulations that attract and exploit the potential of women in value creation.
As a big player in the energy sector, what strategic role can women play in the value chain?
There is big disconnect between policy formulation and implementation, this is mirrored by insufficient evaluation of projects and government policies. There is need to support gender inclusivity in the energy value chain through women own vendors proving necessary input services and technical expertise. I believe a three-tier approach can be taken in terms of mainstreaming women participation and contribution to the value chain. The first tier will address the challenges of political mandate, insufficient financial mechanisms for women owned businesses in terms of project design requirements, monitoring and education. The second tier would address educational trust fund and an increased support for STEM for young girls to promote job creation and enterprise development, while the third will address the broad based female engagement, through the creation of industry bodies and collaboration of industry stakeholders.
What would you say was your biggest achievement when you were on board?
I think the biggest achievement for me since coming on board, would definitely be the ability of my team and I to commence the rebranding process and brand architecture of the new MRS PLC brand after the acquisition of Chevron in 2009.
In addition to this, trying to embrace paperless processes, reaching excellent customers service, optimising the existing process workflow by automating more than 50 per cent of manual duties, instilling a culture that speaks to our core values, business ethics, and an understanding that an employee must keep learning, and finally promoting increased gender inclusion and diversity in the organisation.