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Women are gaining their space in Louisiana oil and gas industry

May 22, 2023

  • BY LAUREN CHERAMIE | Staff writer of The Advocate

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Fumy Rita was appointed as the executive director of the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition, LAGCOE, in January. She previously served as the organization's director of operations and international affairs. 

Rita was born in Moscow, Russia, and raised in Lisbon, Portugal, but her roots trace back to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe. She earned a master's degree in international communication from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2020 and a master's degree in Francophone studies in 2017. 

Can you tell us about the history of LAGCOE? 

LAGCOE is a nonprofit organization that was established to support the advancement of the energy industry. We are mostly known for our Technical Exposition & Conference, but the organization does much more. The first LAGCOE exposition was held in the parking lot of the Petroleum Club of Lafayette in 1953 — then it kept growing.

What is the "go forward" mission at LAGCOE?

For 68 years this has been an amazing organization, and we want to ensure that it remains sustainable. To do that, we had to transform a few things. The go forward mission aims to build a robust, sustainable group of energy professionals, businesses and volunteers that help take the lead in providing solutions to our energy industry. Right now, we're going through a transformation process to ensure that the organization is sustainable but also properly placed to provide support to the advancement of our industry. We are developing a strategic plan this year which involves rebranding and creating new initiatives and educational programs, but our focus is always on connecting people, promoting commerce and fostering education. 

What are some of the programs that LAGCOE facilitates? 

Right now we've been going to elementary and middle schools to talk to students about how energy helps move the world for the Little Energizers program. For high school students, we have the Future Energy Professionals program, which provides a hands-on look with visits to different companies and meetings with chief executive officers. Students can ask questions, touch the equipment and get a feel of what the industry does. This way, they can determine if they want to go into this field or not. We also award scholarships to students in the area. Once students graduate and enter the workforce, we have the Energy Leadership Program, which is made of five sessions. We discuss leadership, team building and how to advocate for our energy industry interests. Last, but not least, we have the executive summit, where we bring together CEOs and provide them with the opportunity to gain new information through networking. 

What is the importance to you in advocating for other women in the oil and gas industry? 

It's very important. Women have always been a part of the oil and gas world, just look at organizations like Desk & Derick or the Women in Energy Network. They have been in administrative roles, in engineering, in sales, but they haven't been spotlighted. Now they are gaining more space and being recognized for their valuable contribution to the industry. As a woman, I love to usher this notoriety and continue to cultivate more diversity into my organization. Not just in terms of gender, but diversity in the industry as well. At LAGCOE, we make sure that we are being diverse and inclusive of all levels of energy.

How does your global background give you a different perspective in this particular industry? 

LAGCOE is a global organization. Throughout the years, our organization's Technical Exposition & Conference has attracted more than 40 countries and 49 states to Louisiana. Even further, energy is needed all over the world. This is a global industry. So being able to speak numerous languages, having resided in numerous countries, helps me to better connect with individuals. It is my mission to further stretch our reach and help establish strong relationships between LAGCOE, international partners and our companies in Louisiana. 

How long have you been in Louisiana? 

I've been in Louisiana for 22 years. 

And what's your favorite thing about the state? 

Can I say three things?

Of course.

I love the people. I love the culture of Louisiana. I also love the potential that this state has — the opportunity that it has to grow and continue being the energy hub that it is.