First Woman Becomes President of Brazilian Oil Giant Petrobras

By Dialogo
February 15, 2012

Maria das Graças Foster, a 58-year-old chemical engineer, became president of state-owned oil giant Petrobras on February 13 and promised continuity in the management of the company, which is planning investments worth almost 225 billion dollars between now and 2015.

“It moves me a great deal to be the first woman in the world to lead an oil company of this size. It’s a big challenge, a big responsibility. I feel prepared,” Foster said upon taking the post, in the presence of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Foster, who began to work at Petrobras as a new graduate in 1978 and was serving as its director of gas and energy until February 12, specified that she wants to “provide continuity” to the management of her predecessor, José Sergio Gabrielli.

“We have goals; we know where we want to get to,” she stated.

The new president of Petrobras highlighted at a press conference that the five-year plan for 224.7 billion dollars of investments in oil and gas “is being maintained,” although she clarified that “there is no expectation that the investments will be increased.”

She is also maintaining the firm’s objective of producing 6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d) by 2020 (compared to 2.02 million BOE/d in 2011).

“I’m here as the first female president of Brazil to see the first woman in the world become the head of an oil company. I congratulate a 30-year employee of Petrobras for her tireless work,” Dilma Rousseff said.

“With Graças, Petrobras will be in good hands. She will know how to provide continuity and expand Petrobras’s conquests,” she stated.

Rousseff recalled that Petrobras has a presence in 28 countries, that the firm’s profits have increased fourfold in the last ten years, and that investment in research has increased 360 percent.

“Count on me, Graças Foster,” the president concluded.

Foster will seek to turn around disappointing financial results: in the fourth quarter of 2011, Petrobras recorded net profits of 2.95 billion dollars, half what it earned in the same quarter of 2010.