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Interview with Gina Fyffe, CEO of Integra and member of the EPCA Talent & Diversity Inclusion Council (TDIC)

EPCA sits down with Gina Fyffe, CEO of Integra and member of the EPCA Talent & Diversity Inclusion Council (TDIC) to talk about the changing workplace in the petrochemical industry.
 
Pioneering work
 
A trailblazer for diversity and inclusion in the petrochemical industry globally, Gina Fyffe is an active and founding member of the EPCA Talent & Diversity Inclusion Council (TDIC).
She is also a long-term member of the SCIC (Singapore Chemical Industry Council), speaking regularly through the region on diversity issues.
In the Middle East and the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association’s (GPCA), she sits on the International Trade Committee and heads up the liaison between the International Trade and Supply Chain Committees. Spending so much time in the region for many years, she takes a special interest in diversity across the Middle East.
She was ranked 48th in the Middle East ‘Power 50’ listing in 2017 by Refining & Petrochemicals Magazine, and was the runner up for ‘Oil & Gas Women of the year’ award at the 2017 Oil & Gas Middle East and Refining & Petrochemicals Awards for her pioneering work in the region.
 
Fyffe began her pioneering advocate for diversity in the petrochemical industry at an early stage in her career, having co-founded the Women in Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) in the early 1980s due to the lack of networking and training opportunities for women in the industry at that time.

What was clear was that there weren’t many women in the industry and what we were finding was that those women weren’t in senior levels, so they tended to be in fairly junior, office-based positions and so we didn’t really get much opportunity to network.”
 
It became evident early on that industry buy-in was a must. Despite the international success over the decades, which has seen WISTA help women in the industry network and learn from each other, Fyffe feels there may not have been enough progress made in terms of society accepting gender equality as a norm.

I would have hoped that by now you wouldn’t need to have organisations that start with the word ‘woman’. But it seems that you do.”
 
 
Diversity & Inclusion
 
Within Integra, the demographics of the organisation reflect Fyffe’s philosophy that more diversity brings more benefit to the company, with half of the worldwide staff being women, and the age of the staff ranging from their 20s to 70, coming from 27 different nationalities.
 
It is not only within her own organisation that she is leading the change. As Integra has been a member company of EPCA for many years, Fyffe has supported associations setting up councils to tackle D&I in the industry, and has been a member of the EPCA Talent & Diversity Inclusion Council (TDIC) since its founding in 2015. Fyffe, along with other representatives of the petrochemical industry have been collectively working towards bringing the business case of D&I to the forefront. In its short life-span, the council has already undertaken three in-depth studies of different facets of D&I, specifically targeting the petrochemical industry.

Diversity & inclusion initiatives have been taking place for a long time, but the pace of change within our industry has not been as fast as in society in general or indeed in other industries.
We have been slow to realise that diversity with its different points of view brings better financial results for companies, with better decision making and fewer bad decisions.
We need to provide workplaces where people actively want to win the fight for talent that we face going forward, i
t’s not just about being good social players but it makes good dollar and cents business sense.”
 
Recognizing the importance of Diversity and Gender Inclusion, the TDIC began by conducting a study of the EPCA member organisations to gain a better picture of the current status, progress and best practices across the European Petrochemicals industry. The survey and subsequent analysis were supported by McKinsey. From the side of EPCA, 19-member companies participated in the survey, which targeted both the “white collar” managerial workforce and the “blue collar” operations workforce and together represented a total of approximately 30% of the entire employee population of the European Chemicals Industry. The results of this study were shared during the 49th EPCA Annual Meeting in Berlin (2015), with the EPCA report “Why Diversity Matters” published in early 2016.

Getting our industry to where it needs to be will take a lot of time and perseverance, but, it is not an option it is a necessity.”
 
Following this study, we saw that it was clear there was a need to better understand the root causes of D&I challenges in general and harvest best practices on D&I amongst the EPCA members. There was a need for the industry to not just see what other industries were doing, but what organisations in the industry were managing to do. The objective of this was to identify existing practices, discuss their impact, learn from each other’s experience and sometimes failures, borrow the best ideas and last but not least, share the outcome of this ‘crowdsourcing’ exercise with the wider EPCA community. This resulted in the publication of a practical step by step guide: “Improving Diversity and Inclusion: A Guide to Best Practices for the Global Petrochemical Industry” in 2017 whose analysis was shared at the 50th EPCA Annual Meeting in Budapest (2016).
 
Another pressing challenge that we see the industry facing, is the issue of multiple generations working together in the same workforce. For the first time in modern history, five generations will soon be working with each other side by side. This issue is global, but with nuances across regions we decided it would be best to first look at the challenges within Europe. Therefore, over the course of 2017, we looked into the challenges that the European workforce was dealing with in regard to age diversity, as well as the best practices in place by the various companies. A new report on this facet of diversity will be published within the coming months.
 
 
What’s next?
 
There is clarity on what organisation need to do, but the biggest challenge is the cultural change that needs to take place by embedding these values within an organisation. Strong leadership across all levels is needed to make it work.
We need to find a way of helping the transfer of knowledge between younger and older workers by reverse mentoring and to stop the years of knowledge built up over a long career, leaving the building when the employee retires.
Our younger employees can help the older ones in areas of particularly social media and technology use in the work place to give both groups the benefit of a support system.
We need to step away from unconscious gender stereotyping and look at both sexes equally on their merit, at the recruitment stage and through their careers, while that is childcare or parent care initiatives, unpaid leave or part time working they need to be gender neutral to avoid bias. We would do well to look at our recruitment and see how many applications come in from each sex, since a true gender-neutral workplace can only be achieved when we have an equal choice of numbers for each sex applying.
Our companies want to recruit the best and if we are not getting the best candidates from each sex, we are falling short in our recruitment.
In diversity of culture for example we can gain a lot by getting first-hand experience of the other regions many of whom are our customers and technology competitors.
 
 
 
Biography
 
Having graduated in science from the University of Edinburgh, Gina’s career in the petrochemicals industry spans close to 40 years.
After a short period in biomedical research, she spent 10 years at Exxon Chemical in marketing, steam cracker operations and shipping both in the UK and the Brussels international HQ.
During her time at Exxon, she was a founding member of WISTA (Women In Shipping and Trading Association), with 5 industry friends. WISTA has since grown into a global organisation offering training, support and networking opportunities to women in the industry.
The last many years have been spent working in international trading, having founded the trading and logistics company, Integra in 1989.
In addition to her Integra trading company and main board positions, Gina sits on the board committees of the SCIC (Singapore) and GPCA (Mid East), BTS Tankers Singapore, a charitable medical foundation in Europe, and is the former president of the board of governors of the German European School, Singapore.
Gina is a regular speaker at conferences on shipping, logistics and petrochemicals for the main consulting companies.
In Asia as part of her commitment to social welfare, training and education she talks and works with companies to develop strategies for social impact investing both at local start-up and government body levels.
 
 
 [All reports mentioned in this article can be found for download on the EPCA website under the category of Diversity.]