Lorelie Quiambao Osial (President and CEO)
#BreakTheBias is the theme for this year’s International Women's Day (IWD), which annually celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is a campaign that urges everyone to demolish the stereotypes that have long shackled women, and destroy the prejudices and wrong perceptions that have prevented them from realizing their full potential.
Shell has always been active in IWD by highlighting remarkable women achievers who are passionate in their field and who push societal boundaries to make the world a better place. All these accomplishments show that women are equal contributors to men in the development of the nation and its people.
This year for #IWD2022, Lorelie Quiambao-Osial, the first Filipina to be appointed President and CEO of Pilipinas Shell, explains how she breaks the bias in her line of work and spheres of influence. Concurrently, the Country Chair of Shell Companies in the Philippines, she also narrates how she sees and leads the transition of Pilipinas Shell from a fuel company to an energy giant, while managing to balance her personal and professional lives.
1. When you first joined Shell, did you feel that the company could be one in which a woman could be the country head?
I grew up of the view that leadership has no gender and that did not change when I joined Shell. Gender is not the only thing that defines us. We are defined by our uniqueness and all our different dimensions – our values, our personality, our achievements, our experience, our skills, abilities and talents, that when harnessed and nurtured will allow us to continue to evolve -- to be the best version of ourselves…. and create or embrace opportunities when they come along.
As a leader, it is important that you continue to develop yourself in different leadership styles, and expand your toolkit. It is also important that you recognize your own strengths, and that you are aware of your organization and the environment around you. You need to continue learning because the world will continue teaching.
2. Have you seen changes within the company in the areas of inclusivity and diversity over the years?
I joined the company 20 years ago and I have certainly had my own experiences of being a minority in various teams -- being the only woman or the only Asian or the only one from my geographic location in the Philippines. My career story in Shell continues to be rewarding and I have witnessed the commitment of Shell on Diversity and Inclusion which has grown stronger year on year since I joined. In 2021, this was further emphasized in our refreshed Powering Progress strategy which includes Powering Lives as one of the goals. Our Powering Lives goal is to become one of the most diverse and inclusive organizations in the world, a place where everyone feels valued and respected and has a strong sense of belonging. We want people to be their full selves and thrive in Shell. Aside from gender, we are also focusing on LGBT+, race and disabilities. It is the right thing to do and if we get this right, we will become even stronger as a company and can better serve our customers and find innovative solutions for the future.
I am very much aware that the energy industry has traditionally been predominantly male and we will continue to work hard to look beyond gender, value achievements, develop talent, promote growth, recognize diversity and inclusion and ensure we enable equal opportunities.
I believe in a sustainable future and the future can only be sustainable if it is equitable.
3. Do you have any pet projects or new policies you’d like to implement as you take the mantle of country head?
As I take on my new role as Country Chair for the Philippines, I am honored to steer our group of companies to power progress through growth, innovation and evolve our different businesses and portfolio; develop and showcase world class Filipina and Filipino talent; and promote sustainability, providing cleaner energy solutions in a responsible way, at pace with society.
We will pursue our strategy called Powering Progress which is designed to create value for our shareholders, customers and the wider society and is underpinned by our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people and our relentless focus on safety.
4. Tell us your unforgettable story with Shell
What I like about being in the energy industry and Shell as a company is the positive impact we make in the countries that we operate in, its people and society.
I had a very exciting and challenging opportunity to start-up and provide world class Finance to a portfolio of approximately 80 projects with a USD 17 billion capital investment in Iraq, in a pioneering environment and one of the toughest external environments within the Shell portfolio. This was when Shell returned to Iraq after 30 years of the country experiencing several wars and unrest.
A few years ago, I visited Palawan together with the Country Leadership Team. We visited our 2nd Access to Energy Project, a site that can only be reached after a flight from Manila, a road trip and a boat ride. Access to Energy aims to help small communities that are not yet connected to the main power grids and this was one of those communities. Through this project, a mini-grid power system was put in place composed of wind turbine, solar and diesel. This provided uninterrupted power to the community who was also empowered and responsible for the management and maintenance through its electrical association. Speaking with the families, the school children and the teachers (yes, a school was set-up following electrification that allowed access to education not just for the children in that island but the neighboring islands as well), was a very joyful and meaningful experience.
In my global role I am really proud of leading the transformational change journey in the business processes and global organization I manage that encompass over 50 countries using modern digital tools like artificial intelligence. More importantly, creating and embedding a progressive and compassionate mindset and behaviors across the organization and developing skills for the present and the future.
Leading my organization with care while ensuring stability and innovation through the unprecedented times we have experienced in the last 2 years including the Taal volcano eruption, the typhoons that embattled our country and globally through COVID-19, has been unparalleled.
As I continue my journey in Shell I look forward to more positive stories of transformation and change that can last for generations to come.
5. What do you do in your personal life to help maintain a healthy work-life balance?
In recent years, there have been more discussion about work-life balance vs work-life integration. More than the terminology, I would want to focus more on what it is we want to achieve in the different roles in our lives -- in mine, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sibling, a friend, a colleague, a professional, a leader, among others.
Like most people, I want to be successful in the various roles I play. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can in turn take care of others. To be able to give to others, we need to keep our cup full. That remains challenging to continue to do so consistently. Here are the things that help me.
- Self-Compassion – Being kind and understanding towards myself. Accepting that I am human and not everything will go exactly as I want it or plan it. The other thing is to stop feeling guilty when I carve out time to recharge and recover.
- Having positive distractions – Playing with my family and watching Netflix with my husband, staying connected with friends virtually or otherwise and doing activities where I need to focus – like making a smoothing bowl or playing the ukulele.
- Developing a self-care routine covering spiritual, physical, psychological aspects of my life. At it’s most basic, sleeping well, healthy meals and physical activity. What works for me is prayer and reflection, physical exercise like running, spinning, yoga and reading.
It helps for me to understand the roles that I play in life and being clear on what success looks like in each of my roles personally or at work. That helps me maximize my time, prioritize and try my best to be fully present. It also gives me more perspective in how I manage my energy and not just my time. Having a good support system is also very important. The focus on each role will be different depending on the circumstances and timing, so communicating and having engaged conversations with the people around me in my different roles really helps. Lastly, I try to focus my energy on the things I can control, do the best on the things I can influence and accept that there are things that I just can’t control.
6. This year’s theme for IWD is #BreakTheBias – what comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘bias’?
When I hear the word “bias”, I think of tendencies in favor of or against an idea or a thing or people that could be preconceived. It could be conscious or unconscious.
This year’s theme should be a good prompt to start or continue our reflection on our own biases. The person we can most control and influence is ourselves. Let’s check our own biases.
- What are the biases we have?
- Why do we have these biases? Where do they come from?
- How are we manifesting them?
That will help us counteract our own biases and stereotypes. It would also help to get feedback from others on our own biases and our own efforts to stop our own biases.
This year’s theme should also be a prompt for us to commit to intervene when we see others exhibiting biases and stand up for gender bias should it happen.