Deirdre Michie OBE. Photo courtesy of OEUK.

A (North) Sea Change in Leadership

Early 2022 brought a name change; the start of 2023 will bring a leadership change. After helming Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), formerly Oil & Gas UK, for the past seven years, Deirdre Michie OBE announced in early July that she will be stepping down from her role as CEO at the end of the year and the recruitment process has begun to have her successor in place at the start of the new year.

Michie’s name is synonymous with the energy industry specifically in the UK, but also worldwide. She joined the industry in 1986 with an LLB in Scots Law from the University of Dundee in Scotland. Despite the fact that the industry was in a downturn, Shell was still taking on graduates because it recognized if it didn’t, it would open up a generation gap in its workforce – something that is of real concern again today.

Here are some highlights from my interview with Michie that have been excerpted from my book, Breaking the GAS Ceiling: Women in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry (Modern History Press; May 2019).

At the end of 2011, [after taking a sabbatical to be with her two sons before they left for university], Michie went back to a “fabulous global role,” [at Shell] as general manager strategic sourcing based out of Aberdeen, and traveled regularly to meet with her international team and its suppliers. She remained in that position until 2014 when she led the reorganization of a multidisciplinary team to develop and deliver a revised sustainable operating model for Shell’s UK upstream operations. She concluded her extensive career with Shell upon being appointed the first woman CEO of Oil & Gas UK, the highly influential 430-plus member trade organization widely recognized as the voice of the offshore oil and gas industry.

While the job doesn’t require her to go offshore, Michie thinks it is important to be up to date in at least the minimum training to ensure a good understanding of what is required for personnel working offshore.

“I do think to be credible in this job I need to understand what the requirements are. It is an extraordinary thing to go offshore and to be going along in the helicopter and suddenly these installations appear out of nowhere. The experience is amazing, and I think the shame is we can’t get everybody to go and see it and touch it and feel it. A big challenge for our industry is that it is offshore and people can’t see and appreciate the technology, the engineering, and the skills of the offshore workforce and its commitment to the industry. It’s a challenge for us to get people to appreciate what is out there and what it’s doing for all of us in terms of keeping the lights on and contributing to the UK economy through supporting thousands of skilled jobs and attracting investment.”

Michie says one of [her] goals has been to review Oil & Gas UK’s role, its mission and its objectives. “I want to make sure this team continues to be a leading voice, and a very effective one for this sector, recognizing the changes that are taking place around it. That’s what we’ve been working on as a team so that, as the industry continues to change, continues to face challenges, we have an organization that understands that, is very responsive to its membership and its needs, whether it’s the oil volatility or the move to a lower carbon future. So, in summary, that as an organization we are robust, sustainable, and people want to work with us and for us.”

Michie is confident that there is still a great future for the industry and those that work in it, if there is a focus on where we want to be in the decades ahead, and on working cooperatively to get there. “I think it was this longer term perspective that got me the job rather than the fact that I am a woman. It’s about who I am, not what I am.”

After such a long and illustrious career, it’s hard to imagine that Michie will not stay involved with the energy industry in some capacity. Hopefully, we will ring in the new year with some news about Michie’s next act. 

Headline photo: Deirdre Michie OBE. Photo courtesy of OEUK.

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Rebecca Ponton has been a journalist for 25+ years and is also a petroleum landman. Her book, Breaking the GAS Ceiling: Women in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry (Modern History Press), was released in May 2019. For more info, go to

Photo courtesy of Marc Morrison Photography. Rebecca Ponton on the set of Accidental Texan. T-shirt courtesy of Dovetail Workwear.

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