In this thriving industry, more women are wearing hard hats alongside their male peers. A perpetual need for skilled workers in the fuels and petrochemical industries long ago nixed the notion that these jobs are traditionally for men. But even today, as men and women work side by side to produce the energy and products that power our world, many of our nation’s women might not fully realize these high-paying careers are awaiting them.
One way to spread the word? Share their stories. As part of an ongoing series, join us for a look at some of the women working in today’s fuels and petrochemical plants.
Brenda McLaury worked 25 years in the refining industry in Tulsa, Oklahoma — most recently working at HollyFrontier’s facility there.
That wasn’t where she thought she was headed when she went off to college. She had her eye on medical school, but just in case that didn’t work out, her “Plan B” was a major in chemical engineering. As it turned out, thinking about the life-work balance (or lack of balance) in the medical field, she took an internship at a refinery and had a life-changing experience. That’s when the “Plan B” became THE plan. She accepted a job at the refinery after graduation and never looked back.
In Brenda’s experience, opportunities in the industry were, and are, wide open for women. She’s taken on new roles every few years, because she likes the challenge — and the refining business has given her so many opportunities to continuously expand her potential.
In fact, she’s just started a new role with HollyFrontier, in a new city (Dallas) — this time working on a company-wide project to help develop and implement a new management system for its refining operations.
For young women, particularly with engineering backgrounds, Brenda says it’s an ideal time to be entering the industry. If you happen to take her up on that, and find yourself at HollyFrontier in Dallas — you might look her up. Mentors have been important to her — at first, more established colleagues who took her under their wing — later, mentors that she herself sought out. Nowadays, she thinks it’s important to take that role for younger colleagues (in fact, she says that often she feels like she is the one who gets the most out of the experience).
What’s in store for those younger colleagues? Meaningful work, with good pay and benefits — and as Brenda found, work that also allows for a life-work balance that can be especially important for many working adults.