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Embracing Diversity: Pioneering an Inclusive Future for the Energy Industry

8 May 2024

Within the oil and gas industry, there has been a notable shift toward greater diversity and inclusion, with initiatives led by members like Maria de Lourdes Guiñazu having a significant impact. As both an Operation Manager and a petroleum engineering professor, Lourdes has not only advanced her own professional career, but has helped clear the path for others in an industry historically dominated by men. 

Lourdes’ dedication to fostering inclusivity within the oil and gas sector is palpable through her involvement in initiatives such as SPE’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) program, comprised globally of 40 sections and 63 student chapters.  

In 2019, Lourdes formed a women’s committee with eight other women in her local SPE Patagonia Section. After just three months, the team hosted an event with more than 150 participants. Following two years of development and growth to 45 volunteers, the committee became a D&I section associated with SPE’s larger program to include all minorities in the energy industry.  

Through her leadership as Chair of the D&I Committee, Lourdes has expanded professional networks and advocated for equal opportunities, recognizing the importance of diversity in driving progress and innovation within the energy industry.

"D&I is not just a 'women's thing' — this is a misconception... it means respecting each other for being different, because differences enrich us."

Her journey into the energy sector began unexpectedly at the age of 12, sparked by a school contest on oil royalties in her native province of Mendoza, Argentina. This pivotal moment set Lourdes on a trajectory toward a career in petroleum engineering, fueled by her family's multicultural heritage and a fervent commitment to promoting diversity and equal opportunities within the industry.

Maria de Lourdes Guinazu
ATCE panel featuring Maria de Lourdes Guinazu

Left image: Maria de Lourdes Guiñazu speaks to representatives from Ghana and Texas A&M during ATCE. Right image: "Promoting D&I in STEM—From School to University" panel featuring (from left to right) Mohamed Mehana, Patricia E. Carreras, Mashhad Fahes, Ignatiy Volnov, Tom Blasingame, and Maria de Lourdes Guiñazu at ATCE.

Her educational background also acted as a catalyst for her career in education as a Petroleum Engineering professor and advocate for STEM education. Lourdes shared that her professional journey provides the inspiration to teach new generations of engineers, while remaining active as an educator allows her to continue learning every day. 

“With my work I try to open paths for other women and become a mentor for new generations of female engineers, inspiring them to pursue their dreams without fear of obstacles.”

Despite encountering challenges as a woman in a predominantly male field, Lourdes remains steadfast in her mission to showcase female talent and mentor the next generation of engineers. Her tenure with the SPE Diversity and Inclusion Committee has been punctuated by impactful moments, including representing Latin America on a global stage and sharing insights on D&I in STEM education at prestigious events like the ATCE panel in 2023. 

Lourdes’ goal for her efforts in D&I is to offer visibility to the important work of women and minorities in the industry, while helping them pursue their passions despite the occasional hardships. 

“Despite being different, we deserve the same opportunities and the same respect because we are people, and, consequently, we deserve to show our talent and be considered for it.”

In Maria de Lourdes Guiñazu's journey, we witness the power of diversity and inclusion within the energy sector. Her story exemplifies the essence of D&I — it’s not just about gender, but about respecting differences, offering equal opportunities, and fostering collaboration. As Lourdes aptly described, "D&I is the art of thinking together independently," underscoring its pivotal role in advancing progress and innovation in the industry. 

Learn more about SPE's Diversity & Inclusion program.