Melody Meyer: In tune with energy

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HERWorld19 speaker sings women’s praises

It’s been nearly four decades since Melody Meyer joined Chevron, but certain moments from her storied career stand out as if they happened yesterday.

Take for example that time she led the startup of the company’s Kazakhstan project.

She was only 35 at the time, manager of engineering the project and running a large department. She decided to host a town hall which attracted the attention of many Kazakh and Russian women who had never worked in engineering before. But now they were with Chevron and Melody wowed them with her know-how.  “Can we do what you do in Chevron, now that we’re part of Chevron?” they asked.

“It was the first time I realized women need role models and we need to help other women.”

Melody Meyer

That was Melody’s “lightbulb moment” and she has been singing the same tune about helping other women in the energy industry ever since.

“I encourage women today to envision that they can be a CEO and they can be on boards and they can create tremendous value in those roles.”

Melody retired from Chevron after 37 years and for the past two has served on the board of directors for BP, AbbVie and National Oilwell Varco. She is also president of Melody Meyer Energy LLC and Women with Energy LLC.

At HERWorld19, Melody will be a panelist during The Energy Shift: A New World Order and Trends.

Melody has never lost sight of the way the landscape looked when she joined the industry. “When I looked up, there were no women in top-line management. I never aspired to be a CEO. I never thought it was possible,” she says.

“Today, it is imperative to have women leading companies and role-modeling for others.”

There are, of course, still areas that need major improvement.

“Statistically, we’re not graduating enough women in STEM. The pipeline is weak. We’re bringing in high percentages of women, but if they are not promoted at the same rate, the pipeline becomes very thin. There’s this big gap in energy of women between 40 and 55 in key leadership roles,” Melody explains.

Add to that a lingering bias in the industry, and the fact that many women who do occupy leadership roles in energy are in staff roles, not line jobs. She repeats the same mantra to women all the time.

“You’ve got to stay in line jobs.”

Melody believes taking a staff job is easy, but limiting. She calls it a ceiling. Likewise, line jobs take you to remote areas where you have to deliver superior bottom-line results.

“You have to be flexible. But at the end of the day, that’s the only way you get to a CEO role.”

While those are big, complex problems to solve, there are some actions leaders in the industry can take now to support women in energy.

“Most men will not give women honest feedback because they’re afraid to or it’s uncomfortable for them. Our male colleagues get a lot of honest feedback, and I think the lack of honest and constructive feedback was probably the only thing that could have helped me more,” Melody says. “I would ask for feedback later in my career, and even then, people were not very forthcoming about it. And when you don’t get feedback very much, you’re more sensitive to it.”

A sense of humor helps.

When Melody went to Angola to run the Chevron project there, one of the offshore superintendents came in to meet with her. He told her he’d never worked for a woman before, and he wanted to know: How is it? Melody recalls with a laugh….

I said, “Well, I’ve never worked for a woman before either, so I don’t know!”

She says the pair had a great working relationship from that moment on.