Time for a coffee break? Take a few minutes to get to know Debra Jennings-Johnson, Senior Director, Supplier Diversity of BP America, Inc., including her advice for women entrepreneurs, and what she sees as an important trend in the energy industry.

What do you see as the newest or most important trend in the energy industry?

Modernization – exploration and processing of gasoline is the same, but we have so many different ways to do this today with digitization.  It impacts our safety, engineering, market programs in various ways and our diverse businesses have an opportunity to provide solutions.  BP has a Digital Innovation Organization who has presented at Summit and Salute and the NMSDC Conference, that is an example of their drive to identify companies who can assistance in making us more efficient and safe in our delivery of energy to the world.

Why should women entrepreneurs apply to the WBENC Energy Executive Program and what other education/training programs should women entrepreneurs make sure to learn more about?

The whole purpose of the program is to provide insights into our industry – simulations, subject matter experts, detail on industry is structured, etc – as a learning opportunity for selective women-owned companies to assist in their planning and implement processes that contribute to their growth and capabilities.  EEP provides WBEs a unique opportunity to be “up close and personal” with individuals from the four major Oil and Gas Corporations to not only hear their views but to ask questions in a formal and informal setting.  The Roberts Training Center is one of the venues the industry uses to train its own employees and the doors have been open to WBEs who strive to grow by providing solutions to make them a value asset to each of our Corporations through 1st or 2nd to participation.

There are several programs other than WBENC’s EEP available to WBEs through WBENC Tuck and Kellogg Management Programs, or industry-specific programs offered through the American Petroleum Institute.

What piece of advice would you give to women entrepreneurs that want to do business with your corporation?

Research our company and find out where we’re going or what we’re doing; and then start building relationships by attending events where BP is present regardless of the type of event (not just supplier diversity events).  Make sure your company has a specific niche offer and you can articulate the “prize” that is a win for you and BP.  Always present a solution when in front of decision-makers.  Share concepts that offer cost-savings or efficiencies.  Be willing to grow and not stay where you are today.

How has being a WBENC Corporate Member helped your corporation and/or procurement department?

Being a WBENC Corporate Member has inspired BP to continuously improve through:

  1. implementing the Top Corporation Criteria
  2. the WBE learning programs offered
  3. the benchmarking best practice sharing amongst corporate peers.

WBENC has given us a platform to introduce many of our C-Suite leaders to the “world” of Supplier Diversity and all it has to offer from colleagues in various industries, face to face contact with wonderful WBEs and ignited passion for achieving progress toward more WBE inclusion.  This translates into more sourcing opportunities and greater support from decision makers who are influenced by our leaders’ commitment and support.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a career woman having witnessed my mom’s rewarding career as a teacher, and was surrounded by relatives who are strong, women professionals in the legal and corporate world.

How do you unwind after a long workday?

I like to unwind in the family room with a puzzle on my iPad or a good movie.

Fill in the Blank

When I face a challenge, … I deal with it head on, challenges fuel a sense of urgency and excitement.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… don’t take everything so seriously.
The one thing I couldn’t live without is… my family and best friend.
Diversity and Inclusion inspires me because, … I believe best practices and successful results are created when we there is diversity of thought, gender and ethnicity combined with an environment that fosters inclusion.


BP is a global producer of oil and gas and has invested over $100 billion in the U.S. since 2005. BP employs about 14,000 people here and supports over 106,000 additional jobs.

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Debra Jennings-Johnson
Senior Director, Supplier Diversity of BP America, Inc