Advice to Women in Male-Dominated Industries

The energy industry has attracted more diversity in the last decade or two, but there’s still a long way to go

When it comes to being a working mom in an industry traditionally dominated by men, some of the best advice I received early in my career was to be myself.

I am often asked: How do I balance work and life as the mother of two young children, while being an executive at one of the state’s largest oil and natural gas companies?

It can be challenging, and there were barriers along the way, but challenges often morph into the best opportunities for growth and leadership.

Early on in my career, I had to overcome my own obstacles, feeling as though I needed to be like the men in the room. Thankfully, a mentor encouraged me to be authentic. I feel that is fundamental to building and inspiring trust.

Almost every new role I moved into was frightening, and naturally, I questioned whether I was suited for that role.

I’ve been with my company for 17 years, starting out as a technical geologist creating maps and making recommendations on where to drill. After five years, I began leading a team. I knew early on I had interest in the business, strategy and leadership side more so than the technical, so I started to steer my career in that direction. I share this because I encourage you to be the architect of your own career. It starts with vision, then execution.

I took various roles from business advisor, business development director, and within the financial and planning areas – all very untraditional for a geologist and woman.

For one of my first big presentations, I was so nervous. I was presenting to a room of mostly engineers in senior leadership roles. I felt like I needed to speak their language and do it the way I had seen previously by my predecessor, instead of how I would do it.

After the presentation, one of my former bosses and mentors asked me, “What was that?” He told me I was too serious and did not seem like myself. In that moment, I decided I could do things differently and be true to my own leadership style.

The energy industry has attracted more diversity compared to when I started 17 years ago, but we still have a long way to go.

When I walk into a room, I am often the only woman there. With that, I feel there is a responsibility. It is important to represent women at the decision-making table by asking other leaders to be mindful of how a message or decision would be both received and delivered to women within the organization.

I also believe it’s my responsibility to be a mentor to other women. Servant leadership is a core value we talk a lot about at my company. Sharing knowledge with other women, and providing meaningful conversation is something anyone can do, at no cost, and the reward to others is tremendous. Of course, I also gain perspective in return.

I believe it is important to give back to other women because I experienced a lack of female mentors when I first started in the oil and natural gas industry nearly 20 years ago. Today, I try to be part of the solution by providing as many resources as possible to women entering the field, especially as we work to close the gap for women in upper levels of leadership.

My advice is be authentic; be a mentor, and don’t be afraid to be a pioneer in your own career.   

Carrie Horton is a Vice President of DJ Basin Development for Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. She is a geologist by background, and now manages assets for the energy company within the DJ Basin. Horton is a 2018 recipient of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women Award by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Categories: Company Perspectives