Kerry Dryburgh

People & Culture, bp

26 January 2022

Kerry Dryburgh


Pathways to CEO

Kerry Dryburgh

Why 25×25?

25×25 is all about empowering women. And, you know, that’s been a passion of mine, I should say for much of my career. And as you know, Tara, I also have two daughters, one who’s 21 and one who’s 13 so for me, it’s not just about where I am today and how I can help change the face of the corporate landscape, but it’s also about really paying back for the future and for my daughters and the world that they’re going to inherit as well.

And I think 25×25, a corporate led initiative, us as organisations coming together and getting support we need is the most powerful way to change the landscape that we operate in from a business standpoint.

So I feel very passionate that this is the right way to make change, basing it on data, getting the support you need from companies is really critical, and that’s the way I like to do business. And your passion about what we’re trying to achieve and the brilliant women that we’ve got engaged in 25×25 is what gets me up and out of bed to help and I think it’s what will make us really successful.

How has bp managed to set 50:50 targets for its top three senior levels by 2025?

From a gender standpoint, gender parity, I believe, is something that all companies should really aim for. But a couple of years ago that would have seemed quite a long way from where we were in our reality. In some regards we were fortunate because we are reinventing BP, and what that enabled us to do was to look at how we could completely restructure the company.

What we did was put gender at the heart of that restructuring: did we have the right people in the right roles for the business we needed for the future? But we were also able to think about diversity and put diversity very much at the heart of everything that we were doing.

That enabled us to focus on the outcomes as much as how we plan to restructure the organisation.

Did you find it difficult to recruit female talent given, for example, the much lower percentage of women vs men (25%) STEM graduates in the UK?

So at the most senior levels we had around 20%. We are now at 40%. And you know, that’s a significant jump I think, by anybody’s standards. And certainly we focused right through the talent pipeline from STEM graduates, right through to the most senior levels of hiring.

But it is important to have senior role models. And we believe that the more senior role models you have, the more you’ll encourage people to join the company, as you say, right through the talent pipeline. And we’ve done some really great work in that regard, and certainly delighted with some of the brilliant talent that we’ve brought into our company.

Fran Bell, for example, joined us from Toyota a great digital player, Giulia Cherchia who heads our sustainability and strategy organisation, another great player. We’ve brought in talent like Tracy Clement. So we feel very fortunate that we’ve managed to attract some brilliant talent to our company.

As you reinvent bp, have you seen a change in the pathways to CEO?

In terms of pathways to CEO, in our past that would have been really individuals who had led a big operating businesses. So in the old world, that would have been an upstream organisation or a downstream organisation and Bernard Looney who is our chief exec today, who I know you’ve been talking to is a brilliant example of that. That’s the career that he led.

But as we move forward and we are transforming ourselves into an integrated energy company our job is to make sure we have people across the organisation who’ve worked in multiple parts of our business. So pathways to CEO will look quite different. And what we’ll be looking for is people who’ve worked in our operating businesses as well as potentially in our digital organisation. They could have worked in our consumer business, in renewables, because we need that breadth of experience for individuals who might ultimately become CEO of bp.