BP appoints first ever woman to lead its American business

Susan Dio will take over as chairman and president of BP Americas starting May 1 and be based in Houston. She currently runs BP’s shipping division and will replace John Minge, who will chair a study on carbon capture technologies with the National Petroleum Council before retiring in March 2019.

Leadership roles for women in energy globally are rare. At BP’s U.K. operations, men are paid about 23 percent more than women, which the company said is because most senior executives are male. That reflects gender disparities in the industry more broadly, where only a fifth of all workers are women.

“Susan’s breadth of operational and commercial experience gained with BP around the world –- including leading our global shipping business, running a major refinery, and managing a chemical plant – make her ideally suited for the key role of representing BP in the U.S.,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said in an emailed statement.

The BP Americas chairman role is more diplomatic than operational, according to Brendan Warn, a London-based analyst at BMO Capital Markets. BP is still paying for the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010, when an explosion at a drilling rig killed 11 people and caused the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

The company has invested about $100 billion in the U.S. since 2005, more than any other country, and generates almost a third of its annual revenue there. That means Dio will be close to several of BP’s biggest projects and deal with some of its toughest challenges — such as expanding its shale operations or dealing with the cost implications of steel tariffs.

BP has women leading two other major divisions in the U.S. — Starlee Sykes heads up the Gulf of Mexico operations and Janet Weiss the business in Alaska, the company said.

“The U.S. and the Americas are very important to the company,” Warn said. “You meet with dignitaries, you need to be respected internally and externally.”

Like Dudley, Dio is a chemical engineer. She joined the company in 1984 and has run BP Shipping, which manages a fleet of more than 70 vessels, for three years. She has also worked in senior commercial and operating roles in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. BP described her as a “champion” for women in the energy industry.

“Susan has developed a strong record of creating cultures focused on safety and ethics while improving business results,” according to a company biography. “She is passionate about mentoring, and is known for building teams, developing talent and engaging the workforce in the company’s mission.”