The 100 Diverse Corporate Leaders in STEM blog series features a new business executive Monday-Friday and the exemplary work his or her company is doing to support 21st century STEM learning and workforce development- particularly for women, minorities and under-represented groups. Learn more and download the whole copy at STEMConnector.org/100Diverse. Follow the conversation on social media using #100STEMLeaders. Today's Diverse Corporate Leader is Tracy Faulkner, vice president of global external affairs, downstream at Shell.
Vice President of Global External Affairs, Downstream
Tracy Faulkner is Vice President of Global External Affairs for Shell’s Downstream business. In this role, she oversees external and internal communications and engagement, and provides strategic advice to Shell leaders on a range of reputation issues and opportunities. Nearly every aspect of her work deals with science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), including engagements with external stakeholders on topics such as emerging alternative energies, mobility, fuel pricing, arctic exploration, carbon capture and storage, safety, hydraulic fracturing, and deep water drilling.
Previously, Tracy held management positions in the power generation, agricultural and construction equipment and automotive industries, working for the Tennessee Valley Authority, Fiat Group and General Motors. Tracy earned a bachelor’s degree from Clark-Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. She completed the Center for Creative Leadership - Leadership Development Program and the Harvard Business School Executive Education program. Tracy is a member of The Executive Leadership Council, a Trustee of both the National Urban League and Institute for Public Relations and a Director on the British American Business Board. Currently, she is based in London, England.
Shell is an innovation-driven global group of energy and petrochemical companies. We take natural resources and add value in many different ways. We find and extract crude oil, natural gas and bitumen, and transform them into products for sale to retail and commercial customers. We have about 92,000 employees and operate in over 70 countries. We need people who can harness technologies to see through rock, drill wells beneath two miles of water and produce oil and gas from the remains of single-celled creatures that lived millions of years ago. STEM workers balance our books, program our computers and manage our multi-billion dollar drilling projects. They are also the entrepreneurs and suppliers who create the deep-water robots we use, build our ships and offshore platforms, and launch the satellites we use for communications. STEM workers are critical to Shell’s success.
Tracy on Diversity and STEM
Why is STEM Education/workforce development critical to the future of our nation?
STEM is critical to the future of our nation and its economic viability because some of society’s greatest challenges (a cure for cancer, clean drinking water, climate change, renewable energy sources) will only be solved by future scientists, engineers and other STEM workers with great passion for creativity, innovation and competitiveness. Government, industry and academia must join forces to address this pressing issue.
How do we encourage students to continue their study of STEM subjects, particularly women and underrepresented minorities?
I love to spread enthusiasm for my industry and company, with science, technology and engineering being at the core of what we do. I try to make our complex business simple, relevant and meaningful for those young people I engage with. I know I’m biased, but I get pretty excited when talking about the energy industry, the global scale and scope of Shell and the difference we’re making in people’s everyday lives. The U.S. Department of Labor workforce projections for 2018 show that nine of the 10 fastest growing occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree will require significant STEM related training. I can only imagine the impact we can have on young people, women and minorities by getting them excited about science and math, by spending time with them and sharing our personal experiences. Fortunately, my message seems to have resonated with a number of young people, including my twin nephews who are now pursuing Engineering degrees at schools in Indiana. With 75 nieces and nephews, I have a vested interest and a few more young people to encourage.
What STEM initiative that your company has supported are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the human ingenuity I get to see in action at our Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) events, which challenge student teams from around the world to design, build and test ultra energy-efficient vehicles. While the competition encourages innovation and fuel efficiency, the part I love the most is when I engage with the students and hear their personal stories. I will never forget meeting an all-girls SEM team called ShopGirls. One young lady told me that before her eco-marathon experience she did not like high school, she was not performing well and she lacked confidence. Fortunately, she had a teacher who cared enough to get her involved in the school’s SEM team, which was full of young ladies with big ideas and big hearts. She ended her eco-marathon journey with more confidence and a keen interest in studying science and engineering. Shell later invited the young ladies to appear at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where they held a panel discussion on their SEM experience. One of the young ladies even said she wanted to go to an Ivy League school to study engineering. I smiled from ear to ear when I read her Stanford University acceptance letter, which applauded her eco-marathon experience.
Are you a mentor and what is your view of mentorship?
I mentor young people in STEM and non-technical roles, and I encourage others to do the same. Relationships cannot be legislated, so it is key to ensure there is rapport and the necessary time is taken to establish the mentor-mentee relationship. I view mentorship as a trust based relationship that offers mentees a safe place to discuss issues and explore solutions to challenges – all in the spirit of their development and growth, with the intent of strengthening their performance in the workplace.
How does STEM leadership with a focus on diversity help your company compete?
It helps in our quest to become the world’s most competitive and innovative energy company. Our products, services and overall energy portfolio must be attractive to customers and partners. We will not achieve this without a diverse workforce reflecting the diverse markets in which we operate. Our talent is one of our strongest assets. We recognize the need to harness the innovative ideas and advanced technical skills of a new generation of STEM talent that includes a diverse skilled pipeline. Solving our greatest energy challenges will require the best and brightest from all walks of life, contributing to their full potential. We are committed to building a culture that embraces diversity and fosters inclusion. It makes good business sense and it’s simply the right thing to do.