ExxonMobil develops Emirati women's skills

The Life: Morten Mauritzen, the lead country manager of ExxonMobil in Abu Dhabi, explains why the energy giant got involved in the Family Development Foundation.

Morten Mauritzen is the lead country manager of the ExxonMobil companies in Abu Dhabi. Lee Hoagland / The National
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ExxonMobil has given US$1 million (Dh3.763m) to the Family Development Foundation, an Abu Dhabi non-profit organisation, to help develop the skills of Emirati women. The money will fund the training of 30 women to become social workers caring for the elderly, and the development of leadership and managerial skills of 20 other Emirati women. Morten Mauritzen, the lead country manager of the ExxonMobil companies in Abu Dhabi, explains why the energy giant got involved.

Tell us about ExxonMobil's involvement with the foundation.

We operate all over the world and in all places we are, we try to be a responsible corporate citizen. We want to support the community. [The foundation runs programmes] to empower women to support their families and communities. That fits so well with what ExxonMobil is trying to do in a country like this.

What support do you offer?

We support them with $1 million but if they want our support to help them with their programmes we [also] have some expertise.

Such as?

Well, for example, the ExxonMobil Foundation, the philanthropic arm of ExxonMobil, [has] for the past seven years contributed more than $50m to programmes round the world. One programme called Global Women in Management, we've done it in several countries but for the first time this year we did it here in the UAE. We had 19 Emirati females ... and they started here with some workshops, then we took them to Washington and they spent a week [there] meeting prominent US female policymakers including Nancy Pelosi. Through that they really got so engaged. After that week they came back to the UAE for a wrap up workshop. I met then before they went and I met them after they came back to us and I could just see the enthusiasm. These were females that had already made it into leadership positions but this helped them grow further.

The oil and gas industry is pretty male-dominated. What are you doing to advance women within ExxonMobil in the UAE?

About a year ago we employed an Emirati female reservoir engineer. She has been in Houston for over a year as part of being in the ExxonMobil training curriculum, being exposed to other ExxonMobil operations. That's what we can offer Emiratis: we are a global company and to the extent people are interested and willing to move, they can see other parts of our operations.

We have tried to spearhead a women's network within Zadco [a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Japan Oil Development Company to develop the Upper Zakum oilfield]. Very often there are female leaders from ExxonMobil who visit Abu Dhabi. My boss in Houston is a woman. She is a vice president for the Middle East and Russia and she was here last week. She spent an hour with these Emirati ladies in Zadco just chatting. They are interested in how come [she] made it up to a VP in ExxonMobil, and she asked them about their lives.