When Srividhya Vaidyanathan joined Shell in 2001, she had recently moved from Chennai, India to Houston, Texas. Leaving her job at India’s National Stock Exchange, she knew that she wanted to join a company where she could truly build a career. She joined Shell and 14 years later, she’s still as excited and passionate as ever.

She works as the Global Category Manager – Storage and Handling, representing more than 150 oil and gas terminals worldwide as well as strategic pipeline assets in North America. This involves the management of key supplier relationships and delivery of integrated value improvements via contract management strategies.

portrait of Srividhya Vaidyanathan

Sri, as she likes to be called, enjoys being involved in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leadership. She’s the chairperson for Women in Contracts and Procurement (WICP) in Asia Pacific and also volunteers for the Senior Women’s Network India. It is in this capacity that she helped launch a re-entry programme, helping women return to work after taking a career break.

“It’s really important to me to be an advocate for women in the workplace, especially in India,” she says. “The Senior Women’s Network did an analysis on working women in India – we make up only 26% of the total workforce. Almost 50% of women who enter the workforce exit by the time they’re 30.

This is due to the cultural understanding that women’s jobs are always secondary to men’s jobs. There’s a lot of social pressure as well with limited access to good-quality childcare, meaning that women leave their jobs to look after their children themselves. Throw into the mix the cultural expectation that women have to take care of sickly or elderly parents or relatives, and it’s no surprise that it’s hard to recruit and retain women in India,” she explains.

This is exactly where Shell breaks the mould by offering flexible working to all employees. “I worked part-time after the birth of my first child and started working from home after I had my second child. There was no pressure to come back to work full-time,” she shares.

“On the contrary, my second child was only three months old when I got promoted and moved to Singapore to fulfil my duties.  Even though the opportunities at Shell keep coming, there’s always an understanding that people have personal lives too. Had it not been for flexible working, I would never have been able to maintain my career, let alone move into more challenging, but also more rewarding, roles.”

Shell is filled with opportunities to move on to new things. “I’m always looking for the innovator, the person who can make a ground-breaking decision or come up with a clever idea which really challenges the business yet also has the power to change it for the better. If you have the right skill set and you can take on a challenge with both hands, Shell will always meet you halfway,” she explains.

Quick quotes

  • “As a child, I wanted to be a banker. Growing up in middle-class India, the most respected people were the ones who worked in public sector banks – they always looked very well respected to me.”
  • “My iPad’s become like a family member. Had it been a real person, it could be the perfect musician, babysitter and assistant!”
  • “My family is the heartbeat of all I do. I’ve got two lovely children, a husband and my parents and in-laws are just a few kilometres down the road.”

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Sarah has gone from being a mother at the age of 18 to the Regional Team Lead for LNG Trading; she shares her inspiring story 

Seeking work-life balance

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