18 months after the #MeToo movement emerged from the public outrage over the Harvey Weinstein scandal, fresh exposes are appearing with more infrequently, and receiving less media attention than they once did. But every once in a while, accusations of endemic harassment in a new industry will cause a furor for a few days, before the public inevitably shifts its attention back to whatever Donald Trump is doing or saying that day.
Last month, Lloyd’s of London was outed in the FT for its purported culture of entrenched misogyny. And on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported allegations levied by several current and former female employees of Anadarko, the company that just agreed to sell itself to Chevron for a staggering $33 billion.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first #MeToo scandal to rock the American energy industry, coming at a time when the shale boom has cemented America’s standing as the world’s largest oil producer.
The allegations against Anadarko stem from the company’s Denver office, where one former employee alleged in a letter to the company sent by her lawyer that a culture of pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination existed. The employee, Robin Olsen, described the culture at the Denver office as one where women were treated like “sexual playthings who are present at work merely for a man’s sexual gratification.”
Anadarko’s Denver office supervises its onshore operations in Wyoming and Colorado, which covers nearly half of said operations. But it was also a place where female employees complained that they were repeatedly passed over for promotions in favor of less-qualified men, where supervisors engaged in sexual relationships with subordinates – sometimes in the office – and where supervisors made lewd comments about female employees’ sex lives – then punished them if they complained.
That this type of behavior would happen in the energy industry isn’t exactly surprising, where only one in five employees are female. But women said that the company’s refusal to promote female graduates of its leadership program has helped contribute to this disparity.
The woman who described the leadership-training class – where the company announced the three male graduates would get better jobs than the three females – said she complained to human resources. She said she received a bump in pay but not a change in job title. After that, she said, she was passed over for promotions.
Olsen named two executives at the office who were responsible for many of these violations. She said that she often heard one of the men having sex with female subordinates in his office during the middle of the work day.
Olsen’s letter alleges that Brad Holly, who oversaw the company’s Rocky Mountain assets, and Scott Moore, who supervised marketing, carried on sexual relationships with female subordinates. Olsen said she frequently heard the executives having sex with the women behind closed doors in the office, the letter said. When she complained, Holly and Moore stopped speaking to her and gave away plum assignments that were part of her job description that could’ve led to career advancement, according to the letter.
Responding to complaints about this behavior, Anadarko launched an investigation and eventually decided to implement sexual harassment training. However, the women who were allegedly involved in the sexual trysts eventually left the company, and the executives were promoted.
Moore, who left the company in 2018, declined to comment, saying personnel matters should be addressed by Anadarko.
“I have always been a strong advocate for equality, inclusion and mentorship and am proud of my record for advancing the careers of talented professionals in our industry,” Holly said in a statement to Bloomberg. “I certainly never engaged in any discriminatory or retaliatory conduct, and any allegations that I engaged in inappropriate behavior in the office are categorically false.”
Another former employee complained that one of her bosses used to joke that any woman hoping for a promotion should be ready to engage in fellatio.
Two of the former Anadarko employees spoke of a supervisor, known for joking that female employees should provide oral sex to get better jobs, who was promoted while the women who complained about him were passed over and eventually left the company.
One woman said her supervisor gave her derisive nicknames, publicly joked about her presumed sexual activity and cut her annual bonus when she complained.
But even after complaining to HR and the company’s executives, the accused men were rarely disciplined, the women said. But as sexual harassment becomes a bigger financial and reputational risk for energy firms, the female head of a trade group for women in the industry said she expects that incidents like these will become increasingly uncommon. “We have our problems in our industry, whether it’s the hanky panky you hear about, the inappropriateness you hear about after hours, or whatever…but the culture is going to evolve quicker now, because you can’t hide anything. There aren’t four walls anymore. There’s just a glass door.”