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Women to Watch: Linda Cook


[Linda Cook]

14) Linda Cook 
Executive Director, Gas & Power 

Linda Cook is one of the few women to have made it in the macho world of Big Oil.

A 50-year-old native of Shawnee, Kansas, she is executive director of gas and power atRoyal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil company. Natural gas was once a sideline for Shell. But it’s now one of its core businesses, and as its importance has grown, so has Ms. Cook’s stature within Shell and the industry at large.

Indeed, she was hotly rumored for a time to be in line to replace Jeroen van der Veer, who retires as chief executive of Shell next year. In the end, the job went to chief financial officer Peter Voser. But Ms. Cook remains firmly in the Shell inner circle.

A 28-year Shell veteran, Ms. Cook has always stuck out in a male-dominated industry. At the University of Kansas in the 1970s, for instance, she was one of the few women in her petroleum-engineering class.

Joining Shell in Houston in 1980, she held a string of managerial and technical positions in the U.S., and in 2000 was named head of gas and power, based in London. Three years later, she headed up Shell’s Canadian division, leading the company’s oil-sands venture — now seen as one of the pillars of future production growth.

The following year was critical for Shell: The company was rocked by scandal when it emerged that it had overstated its energy reserves. There followed a major restructuring, which catapulted Ms. Cook to the top echelons of Shell management.

Ms. Cook says women are beginning to make more of a mark in the oil patch than when she started out. “I was in the minority, but that’s changing,” she says. “You go to engineering schools today — it’s not yet 50%,” but the share of women students is rising. That’s important, with the industry in the throes of a skills shortage and many experienced engineers close to retirement age. “We need all the people we can get,” she says.

— Guy Chazan

EXTRACT FROM THE ARTICLE “Women to Watch” (Link to entire article)

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