The Women Who Fuel Alaska
A fuel barge in Seward.
When you think of bulk fuels in Alaska, you likely imagine a man in cold weather gear pulling up in a fuel truck to deliver home heating oil. Bulk fuel storage and handling is a historically male dominated industry. However, over the years, there has been an increase in women workers in the storage and distribution of fuel across Alaska. Women are working and thriving at all levels of this industry, including high level executive positions, terminal management, and fuel delivery.
Shannon Oelkers, of Integrity Environmental, specializes in bulk fuel storage. She is one of the increasing number of women present in this industry. She is a recognized expert in environmental permitting for bulk fuel storage and has a front row seat to changes in the industry as she travels the state inspecting and consulting for tank farm facilities and fuel distribution companies.
In August Integrity Environmental celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a social media campaign to highlight other Alaskan women working in fuels.
The Alaska Women in Fuels campaign featured thirteen nominees on the Integrity Environmental website and across social media platforms. The companies for each nominee rallied support from hundreds of colleagues and industry peers to vote with “likes” and “shares.”
The finalists were Angela Fowler, Lindy Star Taylor, Elaine Blankenship and Catalina Inputi.
Angela Fowler is a terminal manager for Petro Marine Services-Alaska Oil Sales. She has been in her current position for six years. She applied for the terminal manager job after getting a nudge from the current terminal manager at the time who was retiring. Fowler researched the company and liked that Petro Marine Service was owned by life-long Alaskans, so she applied and has been there ever since.
Prior to working for Petro, Fowler worked for Distribution NOW and Unocal Chemicals. The thing that she likes most about her position is working with their customers and figuring out how she can best service them and meet their needs. She says, “Our customers know that they can call me anytime on my cell phone, or at the plant, and they will be taken care of.”
Her advice to other women considering a career in fuels is, “Don’t let anyone discourage you from putting yourself out there for any position. I’m a firm believer in the saying that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Lindy Star Taylor
Lindy Star Taylor is a terminal manager for Crowley Fuels Valdez. She has been working in the fuels industry for six years.
Before working for Crowley, Taylor worked in many different fields including acting. She worked as a production assistant in New York, as well as a white-water rafting instructor.
Taylor got started in the fuels industry because she always wanted to get a CDL. Crowely helped her gain experience as a new driver and now she cannot imagine being in any other industry.
She says the best thing about her job is making a difference in other people’s lives. “The greatest tool in our toolbox is gratitude. Showing up every day with a grateful outlook makes for a positive environment and can be infectious.”
Her advice for other women considering a career in fuels is, “Never doubt that you are capable of greatness due to a lack of experience. A strong will and strong heart cannot be taught. The rest can be.”
“Give [a career in fuels] a chance. It’s an underappreciated and essential service for Alaska. There are so many people who work hard to balance the needs of a community for fuel while also doing the work to keep fuel where it belongs. This industry is full of caring and careful people who are deeply tied to their communities, and that sense of family and caring makes this industry a great place to spend your career.”
Elaine Blankenship plays three important roles at the Dutch Harbor bulk fuel facility for Delta Western. She is the office administrator, oversees the warehouse, and is also a member of the Dutch Harbor Management team that manages the site.
She has been with Delta Western since 2012. In Elaine’s roles, she enjoys the daily challenges, number/sales reconciliations, tracking, documentation, teamwork, and respect that is earned from coworkers and vice-versa. Every day, she learns something new.
After leaving her hometown, Olongapo City (Philippines), Blankenship moved to Alaska with her family as her husband was employed with Delta Western. Shortly after that, Delta Western gave her the opportunity to become a member of the team. She took leadership skills from her previous company and applied them in her current role to motivate the Dutch Harbor crew.
Blankenship’s advice to other women considering this field is, “Do not limit yourself based on society’s standard for women, if you want something, go for it!”
Catalina Iputi is a local delivery driver for Crowley Fuels. She has worked in the fuels industry for over two years.
She started working for Crowley as a service order clerk in Juneau, then she became a tank farm operator, overseeing the day-to-day operations and equipment. She got her Class A CDL earlier this year and relocated to Crowley’s Fairbanks Terminal for her current position.
Iputi is proud to be a female CDL holder and delivery truck driver, knowing that women only make up 7.9 percent of the country’s Class A Commercial drivers.
What she likes most about her current position is that she is part of a growing statistic that represents, not only women, but the Alaska Native community. “Every completed workday means another part of the road paved for future women in trades, and a pathway to a more inclusive world for my younger sister. That’s what makes me proud of what I do.”
In This Issue
The Corporate 100
Alaska Business has been celebrating the corporations that have a significant impact on Alaska’s economy since 1993. At the time, the corporations weren’t ranked as the list didn’t have specific ranking criteria. Instead, the Alaska Business editorial team held long, detailed, and occasionally passionate discussions about which organizations around the state were providing jobs, owned or leased property, used local vendors, demonstrated a high level of community engagement, and in general enriched Alaska.