The world’s biggest oil company just named its first female board member

It is a start.
It is a start.
Image: Reuters/ Ali Jarekji
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Saudi Aramco—the world’s largest oil company, thought to be worth more than $2 trillion—has appointed its first female board member as it prepares to go public by early next year.

Industry veteran Lynn Laverty Elsenhans, former chief executive of oil refiner Sunoco, is joining the board of Saudi Aramco, along with four other members who bring international experience to the business, the company announced on Sunday. Prior to helming Sunoco, Elsenhans had a long career at Royal Dutch Shell (paywall) where she oversaw the refining business. She is one of few female executives in the oil industry, which is lacking in women overall.

In addition to the oil industry, Elsenhans’s appointment is a milestone for Saudi Arabia, where there are few women in top jobs. In the conservative country, women, regardless of age, must get permission from male guardians to make decisions like marrying or traveling abroad. The custom in some cases limits their opportunities to work.

But lately, more women in Saudi Arabia have been winning key executive roles. The country’s stock exchange appointed a female chair last year, and one of the nation’s largest banks, Samba Financial Group, now has a woman CEO. The hires suggest that initiatives to boost female participation in the workforce to 30% from 22%, and improve women’s overall role in the economy, are taking hold.