Women Leaders Broke Boundaries in the Petrochemical Industry (and Still Do)

Workforce |  2 min. read

So a truck driver, a chemist and an economist walk into a bar.

What do they have in common?  Well, in this version of the story – they all work for companies in the fuels or petrochemical business.  And – all three are women.


Well, welcome to today’s fuels and petrochemical industry.  And on the occasion of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to a few of the faces of the industry, yesterday and today.

That would be Viola Atwell, who in 1941 became the first truck driver at the Standard Oil refinery in Richmond, California – Helen Currie, who is the current Chief Economist for ConocoPhillips – and Dr. Martha Bretschneider, who was the first female chemist at BASF (more than one hundred years ago).

(Viola Atwell, photo from Chevron)

Want a different version of that story?  How about the one where a ship’s captain, a geologist and an electrical engineer walk into that bar – Deborah Jenks-Reichhold, first woman to take the helm for Chevron – Tamara Morales Rua, exploration geologist with Shell – and Lorena Winicki, an electrical (and now production) engineer at Dow Chemical.

(Tamara Morales Rua, photo from Shell)

In fact, we could go on and on, making different versions of that old story.  Name a job in the fuels and petrochemical industry – and odds are, there are women doing that job.

Was it always like that?  It was not.  The story of women in the industry, is a story of change – of a first woman to walk into the lab, to get behind the wheel of a truck, to run a gas station, to run a company – followed by other women, more women.

(Helen Currie, photo from ConocoPhillips)

And it’s a story yet to be finished.  Twenty-five years from now – there will be still more women in the industry, and in jobs that don’t even exist today:  women who are young girls today, reading stories like this, from the book of Women’s History Month.  Because there are good jobs for all, all sorts of good jobs in the fuels and petrochemical industry – as there have been in the past, and as there will be in the years to come.