BP puts diversity on global agenda

BP is targeting gays, women and overseas staff in a recruitment drive aimed
at improving diversity throughout the company.

The global oil giant has introduced equal benefits for staff in same-sex
relationships and married couples, including death benefit provision,
relocation allowances and pension rights.

The domestic partnership agreement also applies to unmarried couples, and is
designed to remove any barriers to attracting the best available recruits.

The company has also set recruitment targets for these groups and BP’s
vice-president for diversity and inclusion, Patricia Bellinger, believes the
new targets will help build on progress made since 2000 when the company
started to tackle diversity issues.

"It is just a way of attracting the very best people regardless of
their sexuality," she said. "It is part of the richness and diversity
of a company and it’s about getting the best talent."

The company’s chairman, Lord Browne, announced the diversity targets earlier
this year as part of his drive towards changing the firm’s negative image as an
employer of "white Anglo-Saxon males".

Diversity is a major issue for BP which operates in more than 100 countries,
and the company will use strict targets to drive and improve behaviour.

Bellinger believes the diversity programme of the past two years is already
having an impact at the top of the organisation.

"There are growing numbers of women going into technical industries –
in fact, our heads of HR in Pakistan and Egypt are women," she said.

Two years ago, the petroleum giant, which employs more than 110,000 staff
worldwide, set up two committees to engage leadership and deliver diversity.

Bellinger believes this is one of the reasons why 40 per cent of all BP’s
graduate recruits in the UK this year are women. Furthermore, the company has
recruited graduates from 25 different countries.

This approach has also helped increase the number of women on the 400-strong
management team from none, to five.

"You have to make sure you don’t have a biased organisation. You also
have to create a positive impression and let people outside see that women are
prominent in the company," she said.

Bellinger attributes some of the success to lessons learned when BP merged
with Amoco, a company that had inherently strong diversity policies.

"It is a combination of policy intent and the natural progression of
women coming through the ranks. We have a truly diverse operation and that
requires a diverse workforce," she said.

As part of the wider initiative to engage leadership, BP has sent some
London-based vice-presidents out to the countries for which they have
responsibility.

"In the past year we’ve deployed vice-presidents in Asia and Latin
America, and when you put people out there, they get much greater feeling for
the talent and for the people.

"To have senior leadership living there makes a massive
difference," she said.

By Ross Wigham

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