Lynn Laverty Elsenhans is president of Shell Oil Company and the most senior representative for the Royal Dutch/Shell Group in the United States. She also serves as president and CEO of its Oil Products business in the U.S.
Elsenhans joined Shell Oil Company in 1980 after graduating from Rice University in Houston with a BA in Mathematical Sciences and an MBA from Harvard University. She held successive positions in Shell’s major businesses in the U.S. before being named President of Shell Oil Products East in 1999. In this role, she was responsible for Shell’s refining and marketing business in Asia and the Middle East. In 2002, she was named Director—Strategic Planning, Sustainable Development, and External Affairs for Royal Dutch/Shell in London before assuming her current position in June 2003.
Diversity and inclusiveness are values in Shell that we have a great passion for—not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s very important to meeting our business objectives.
Having said that, passion isn’t enough. We must have very clear targets and leaders accountable for delivering those targets. We must have policies that are solid and the kinds of practices in our company that support what we are trying to achieve. I feel in Shell that we do have these elements in place. We’ve made a lot of very good progress, but there is still much to be done.
I believe we are well along on our journey of making diversity part of our everyday business. Each Shell organization has a diversity scorecard to measure progress toward creating an inclusive work environment, achieving goals for workforce representation, minority- and women-owned business spend and managing our talent pipeline.
These scorecards are one method to ensure that businesses and their leaders track progress and achieve the company’s diversity goals. Linking diversity performance to the compensation of our leaders reinforces accountability.
All this is a strong signal from the top that “lip service” isn’t good enough and that Shell leadership is determined to make diversity and inclusiveness a part of the cultural fabric of this company.
We have much yet to do in the areas of developing the talent we have in order for it to be the best that it can be. We’ve made progress in that we now have very structured talent management reviews that we take very seriously in terms of succession planning and development opportunities for our future leaders. We conduct these reviews with a “diversity lens” to ensure that we consider underrepresented minorities and women in meeting our objectives.
Our nine employee networks continue to flourish and Shell is strengthening their role and more closely linking their activities to business goals. These networks support our efforts to attract and recruit talent, onboard new hires, and retain the talent we already have through mentoring and development opportunities. They also help Shell deliver on its commitment to be a good corporate citizen through community service and volunteer activities.
Our businesses also integrate diversity into the way they do business with external parties. Last year, Shell’s U.S. businesses spent more than $514 million with minority- and women owned businesses and are finding real ways to expand their influence.
I’ll give you an example in what our legal department is doing with law firms that perform services for Shell.
Shell wants to ensure that these firms are encouraging women and minorities to become partners. Not only does Shell request demographics, it asks that the firm demonstrate that women and minorities play significant roles in the organization. Continued service to Shell is contingent upon meeting these expectations.
We also have a unique initiative on the marketing side of our business with our multi-site operator program. Our supplier diversity goals were “top of mind” in recruiting nearly 100 operators to manage clusters of our company-owned retail sites around the country. We looked for business acumen, financial resources, an entrepreneurial spirit and a proven track record in retail to take on these assignments, but we also sought out prospects that represent the demographics of the markets in which they will operate. These multi-site operators are forming the backbone of our retail marketing efforts in major metropolitan markets.
Diversity is a journey and we have a ways to go yet. But our goal is to ensure that everyone has a place at the starting line and after that, it’s up to each of us how well we run the race.