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Kathy Khuu – Making a real mark in a male-dominated industry


‘I would say – whether you are in oil and gas or other sectors – it is your duty to create opportunities for generations that come after you,’ Khuu said.

As Women’s Month ends today, oil and gas giant Shell has resolved to sustain the focus on women by launching Africa Oil Week, a gathering of business leaders in the industry, including women of influence, in Cape Town in November.

Shell’s Kathy Khuu says we need to think about future generations. Picture: Supplied

Over 1,500 key executives representing the oil and gas industry from around the world, including investors and senior decision-makers, are expected to attend the event.

Among the speakers will be Kathy Khuu, Shell senior advisor for economic development and local content.

In her role at the company, Khuu advises senior business leaders, management and project teams at Shell on the joint role of government and the industry in delivering development outcomes for natural resource countries through market-driven principles.

Reflecting on the gathering, she said: “Stimulating thought and conversation about the role of the oil and gas sector in driving socio-economic development across the African continent is vital in deciding the actions needed.”

On challenges facing women in the corporate world, she said: “I think the issues that women face in the developed world are the same issues that poor people face in the developing world – whether you are a man or a woman.

“It is more about opportunities and whether you have someone who opens the door that provides you with opportunities to try out your skills.

“I would say – whether you are in oil and gas or other sectors – it is your duty to create opportunities for generations that come after you.

“In my career, it has been both men and women who have helped propel me forward.

“The point is, we have a responsibility whether we are in the early or mid stages of our careers, or retired, to keep the door open for those who are coming after us.”

Asked about the future of young women, she said: “When I was young, I wanted to save the world.

“I wanted to do something that was impactful and I thought being a physician might help me do that.

“After interning at hospitals in the US and in Asia, I realised that the issue was not the lack of skilled physicians. A lot of it had to do with public policy and the decisions that governments make.

“My first career choice was not to be a development economist. I studied sciences in my undergraduate studies as I wanted to become a physician and I spent time working at research laboratories, dissecting animals and doing medical research.

“So, I switched careers in my early 20s and moved to development economics and public policy because I felt that was where the most impact would be felt.

“Switching careers is not a gender-specific challenge, but there’s a general aversion to moving from a ‘safe’ career path like a doctor to the grey world of public policy, which is still male-dominated and sometimes unclear as to exactly what you will be doing in your profession.”

On growing up, said Khuu: “I was born in New York but we moved to West Virginia, which is not very ethnically diverse.

“It was a good lesson for me because it taught me how to interact, listen, respect and work with people completely different from me. I had to try to fit in without losing my identity.”



Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER

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