In the Philippines, just as power, energy and gas technology leader Shell is a pioneer in its industry, it also innovates the way women employees — which now represent 59% of the company’s total workforce — achieve proper work-life balance, providing for their personal needs while at the same time, allowing them to compete professionally on equal footing with colleagues and peers. 

The story of Flor Labit-Ilagan is just one of many that illustrate a uniquely challenging yet rewarding workplace at Shell Philippines. As a plant operator at the Tabangao refinery in Batangas for the past 11 years, she goes to work wearing a white hard hat, safety glasses, metatarsal boots and a portable gas monitor.

“Every time a valve won’t budge with my wheel key, I needed to try harder. I need to prove that I’m capable at work every day; that I can thrive and survive in an environment dominated by men,” she muses. She is happily married to a co-worker named Benj, who helps her in raising two kids -- a 4-year old girl and a 2-year old boy.

Flor is especially appreciative of a new company policy extending the minimum standard for maternity leave. Whereas Philippine law mandates paid leave of up to 60 days only, Shell is perhaps the only company at present that provides up to 120 days or 4 months.

“I appreciate the company’s new policy as it allows new moms to be able to fully recover from pregnancy and childbirth. I’m also thankful to the company’s policy allowing pregnant women to go on light office assignments,” she explains. “I was able to work while enjoying my prenatal days until such time that I can go back to shifting work schedules again.  

Katrina “Kat” May Diola-Tia, a field-based account manager for Shell’s commercial fleet business in Visayas and Mindanao, similarly values the nurturing environment in her workplace. “In my line of work, I have faced different types of customers who would belittle my capabilities since I am a woman,” she shares. “Shell had been very supportive, giving equal opportunities to all their staff regardless of gender. When I told them I was getting married, they even considered my situation and gave me a new career track.” 

Kat has proven that having a fulfilling personal life is not an obstacle to excellence at work. In fact, after getting married in 2011 and giving birth to her now four-year-old daughter, Kat has since won citations such as the Crystal Award in 2012 and 2013, and the 2012 Global Account Manager for “People Make the Difference Real” (PMTDR) awards in Barcelona, Spain. She will also soon be receiving the PMTDR 2016 Top Account Manager for the East in New York City. 

Another empowered woman at Shell is Meliza Atienza, who works as a senior subsea operations engineer at Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX), where she oversees the inspection, repair and maintenance of Malampaya subsea assets using remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and other innovative technology. 

“Shell is so much into diversity and inclusion,” affirms Meliza Atienza. She feels fortunate to have come in at the right time when Shell was opening the gates to women in the engineering field, as early as ten years ago. “When I started work as offshore operations engineer, I had to adjust in a male-dominated environment. I accepted every job even if I knew it would require a lot of physical strength from me,” she says.

Shell downstream executive director John Abbott feels that new standards such as extended paid maternity leaves, career planning and many other programs will give prospective employees an insight into Shell’s commitment to being progressive and inclusive. “The true hallmark of our progress is that inclusion is embedded in everything we do,” he says. “In my view, introducing this minimum standard for paid maternity leave across Shell is good for our people and for our business, and is simply the right thing to do.”

Empowering women in a male-dominated industry is just one of the many ways Shell makes true on its “Make the Future” vision of pioneering sustainable growth for all, just as it continuously promotes innovation for smarter products and energy efficiency, as well as broadening the energy mix with more cleaner-burning natural gas to be able to continuously supply the energy needs of a progressive world. A workplace that is efficient and effective, and that focuses on individual strengths and skills rather than physical attributes, is truly now a reality.