Social Site Pink Petro Aims to Raise the Energy Industry’s XX-Factor

Katie Mehnert wants to leverage social media to support women in the energy industry.

An energy veteran who has worked for both BP (NYSE: BP) and Shell (NYSE: RSDA), she is now developing Pink Petro, a Facebook-like website that she says is the first to be customized around women working in the oil and gas industry.

“I wanted to put together a platform that could create a community of people who could help each other progress in their careers in energy,” Mehnert says. “I’m tired of hearing the news that we don’t have enough women in the industry. I wanted to try to do something about it.”

The site is still in development but Mehnert says it will be a combination of social news feeds with sections focused on learning and development. She says her goals are similar to others who are building targeted social networks, such as Mightybell, a site for self-employed professionals, founded by Gina Bianchini.

Pink Petro will also eventually include sponsored content and a feature similar to LinkedIn’s Influencers, but will not be a tool for recruiters, she says. “There are other sites for that: Oilpro, LinkedIn, Rigzone,” she says. “This won’t be a place to solicit, either.”

The site will be invitation-only, and should launch by the first of next year, Mehnert says. Until then, Mehnert is manning the site’s Twitter feed with tweets on profiles of high-level women or touting campaigns like #5050by2050, which advocate for gender parity in STEM fields. Those who have signed up receive information on webinars with titles like “Making Career Leaps.”

“There’s a lot of talk in the media about women in the C-suite in traditionally male-dominated industries, about them not making it to boards,” Mehnert says.

But, she asks, what about women in the ranks just below that, the ones that need the mentoring and experience that would enable them to be considered for the top spots?

So far, she’s signed on her former employer, Shell, as well as industry giant Halliburton as two investors to help develop the site. She declined to disclose how much the companies invested but says she has spent about $20,000 of her own money in the last six months working on Pink Petro.

Mehnert is starting Pink Petro at a time when the energy industry is keenly focused on employee retention. About a third of Baby Boomers will retire by the end of this decade, and there are not enough people in the pipeline to take over those positions.

The demographic reckoning in energy is more acute because of the havoc wreaked following the crash of oil prices in the mid-1980s. The economic fallout from millions of slashed jobs kept many college graduates in Generation X away from oil and gas jobs, and, so far, there aren’t enough in subsequent generations willing or interested in taking the baton from the soon-to-be … Next Page »

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