Chevron Press Release - Chevron Minority Manager Reflects On 'Climbing The Corporate Ladder'
ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 6, 1998 -- Born to a low-income family in India, Chevron executive Jeet Bindra says he has to stop sometimes and remind himself how far he has come.
But he has no doubts about how he got where he is.
"It took hard work and perseverance -- and a gradual change in the corporate culture -- for me to be elevated to the ranks of upper management," said Bindra, 50, president of Chevron Pipe Line Co., in a speech to the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers here today.
And while "corporate America" still lacks diversity, said Bindra, "the Chevron of 20 years ago is not the Chevron of today. We are making a concerted effort to hire and maintain a truly diverse work force."
Bindra said the corporation's 42-member Management Committee today has eight female or minority members, compared to none in years past. He said the minority work force has increased even though the total employee population shrank 25 percent during the 1990s, and that 28 percent of professionals hired in the last four years have been minorities.
More companies, Bindra believes, are realizing that a growing percentage of top talent is female, minority or both. He also said Chevron's push toward diversity reflects an increased emphasis on international operations.
Cultural backgrounds which yesterday were overlooked or even considered a liability can be assets today, he said. For minorities, this means "the brass ring is closer than ever before . . . you just need to position yourself to grab it."
As a boy, Bindra's schoolwork earned him a college scholarship in India. After graduate school in the United States, he found limited opportunities in his homeland, so he returned to the United States and landed a job with Chevron.
After earning an MBA at night school, he won a promotion to project management. But on seeking to climb higher, said Bindra, "I learned that the Chevron of 20 years ago was a conservative company . . . not exactly on the cutting edge when it came to promoting women and minorities into management positions.
"I remember thinking, don't judge me by the color of my skin, or my accent, or the kind of food I eat, or whether my name is Bindra, or Wong or Gonzales, for that matter. Judge me on my performance and what I bring to the table."
Bindra, who wore the traditional turban of the Sikh religion in those days, stood out in the white-male environment. He recalls getting unsolicited "friendly advice" about how cultural differences created barriers to advancement. He remembers also his frustration at hearing management "reservations" about his ambitions. But he decided to treat the situation "as a challenge, rather than an insult."
Today, he heads Chevron's international pipeline subsidiary, plays a key role managing Chevron's share of the $2 billion Caspian Pipeline Consortium and serves on the Management Committee.
Updated: February 1998