Women can get to the top. In order for this to happen, growth should be a step by step process, along with experience and personal and professional maturity. This was one of the opinions given by Petrobras CEO, Maria das Graças Silva Foster, during the event called “Wise: Women in the Industry Sharing Experiences”, which took place Tuesday, May 7, at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), in Houston (USA).
“Women’s presence in companies makes the debate richer and enhances the decision making process. When prejudice is allowed in companies, wrong administrative decisions may occur and this leads to a loss of competitiveness. Diversity is not a problem. On the contrary, it is a competitive advantage for businesses”, the CEO said in front of more than 200 attendees, women and men.
Graça Foster recalled that the last time she was at the OTC was in 2004, along with Dilma Rousseff, who was Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy at the time. “Today, Dilma is Brazil’s first female president, after 124 years of the country being a Republic. It is a victory for our democracy, and why not for all women?” Said the CEO, who was much applauded afterwards.
In 2012, the CEO was voted one of the most powerful women in the business world by Fortune magazine; the 20th most powerful woman in the world and the third most influential in the business category by Forbes magazine; and one of the 100 most influential people in the world as ranked by Time magazine. She also spoke of her career, noting that it was not easy to get to the CEO position. “I went through every management position before becoming CEO,” she said. “Obstacles were always in the way and they will always exist. My challenge has always been to not accept limitations, to not impose limitations on myself and, especially, to never give up”, she said, stressing the importance of knowledge and information on professional growth.
She admitted that Petrobras is still a predominantly male company, with 84.4% of the workforce being men and 15.6% women. “But compared to the rest of the oil industry, we are not doing so bad,” she said. In the oil and gas industry, 92.2% are men and 7.8% are women. For her, who has been working at the company for 33 years, we must fight against prejudice, including when choosing the career. Today, technical careers still have more men than women.
With regard to quotas for women, the CEO stressed that she believes the best way to eliminate discrimination and provide equal opportunities for everyone is to eliminate prejudice, not through a quota system. “We are different, but we can do the same job if we decide to do so”, she said.