ROBERT -- The future of the oil and gas industry has a new face.
A group of almost 30 women from across the U.S., who are the owners and operators of companies worth between $5 million and $50 million, gathered for a five-day conference to expand their role in the energy industry.
Some are already part of the supply chain for major industry corporations like Shell, but want a bigger role. Others want to get a foot in the door. And they're all spending the week at an Energy Executive Program, hosted by Women's Business Enterprise National Council, or WBENC, to make those wants a reality.
"They're thriving in oil and gas, but at the same time they could use help and development to really take their businesses to the next level," said Lindsey All, a WBENC spokeswoman.
The inaugural, five-day conference at Shell's Training Center in Robert, is providing the women classroom lessons and resources in finance, marketing, business strategy and decision-making that are geared toward the oil and gas world.
The women are also getting hands-on "Energy 101" experiences.
"We haven't been satisfied with our ability to do business with those businesses and this is the beginning of an investment, a deeper investment into how we help those businesses grow and come to scale and participate more deeply in our industry," said Deborah Stewart, Shell Oil Corporation's outgoing Director of Supply and Diversity Outreach.
These CEO's say they're excited because they don't feel they're just getting lip service.
"Just taking the time to teach us what we need to learn, where we need to go with the information, what to do with the information, that speaks volumes for what they really want to do," said Teresa Lawrence, owner of Delta Personnel.
And with the industry seemingly back on the rise, the corporations say the timing for this program couldn't be better.
"As we see some recovery, we're all hopeful there will be some recovery, it does create the possibility that there will be new projects, new opportunities that will give us a chance to bring in even more new and different suppliers into our businesses," said Ray Dempsey, BP's Chief Diversity Officer.
It's an unprecedented partnership among energy industry giants to open the door wider than its ever been before.
To learn more about the energy executive program, head to www.wbenc.org and click on the "Opportunities" tab.