On January 1, 2023, California’s pay transparency law went into effect, putting the Golden State on track with just a handful of others requiring published salary ranges. It also mandated expanded pay data reporting requirements, all designed to identify gender and race-based pay disparities.
Marisol Ramirez, the top human resources executive at Berry Corporation in Bakersfield, California, proactively navigated the company’s data collection and reporting requirements when the law went into effect. As a vice president with more than a decade of experience in the energy company—through mergers, a Chapter 13 reorganization, a spinoff, and a public offering—a project of this magnitude is all in a day’s work. She also understands the necessity of pay transparency to promote a fair and equitable workplace.
Ramirez is a Latina working in a very male-dominated and racially homogenous industry who has proven to be a trailblazer in the executive ranks. But most importantly for a company where most of its 1,400-person labor force are working in extraction fields, she understands manual labor from familial experiences.
First, consider the kinds of questions she faced and how she responded, climbing the ladder from initial responsibilities in payroll, benefits, and other functions of human resources. “What can a Hispanic woman add to this job?” Ramirez was once asked. Her response: “I put my pants on one leg at a time and do what anyone else could do, so let me show you.” She got the position.
For the VP, understanding labor began at a young age. Her father was a farm worker in California’s Central Valley, where crops including cotton, grapes, citrus, almonds, pistachios, and dairy are as much a contributor to the economy as the energy sector. But he had a debilitating stroke on the job and, due to lax regulations at the time, his employer provided no safety net for their family. Her mother worked as an administrative assistant for a school, providing an early modeling for her young daughter on the essence of hard work and survival, regardless of gender.
Her parents instilled not only a work ethic, but more specifically a deep understanding of what employers should provide to their employees and why. “It’s not just empathy,” the VP says. “It’s a respect and appreciation for what working people do and what they need. It helps that good compensation and benefits translate into operational excellence.”
A few other details of her background factor into this story. She first became a mother at age sixteen, and is now the parent of seven in a family that includes twins, an adopted child, and her husband’s children from a previous marriage. She earned her college degree while working full time and raising children—all while the business she worked for went through a series of changes that would test the mettle of any human resources professional.
Berry Petroleum Company, meanwhile, was founded in 1909 by Clarence Berry. By December of 2013, Berry was acquired by LINN Energy and Ramirez joined the company a few months later (after working in other oil and gas-related companies for about six years).
But in 2016, the company filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. The firm emerged after a financial restructuring by 2017, a move that included spinning off the Berry operations into a separate company, Berry Corporation, that then went public with an IPO in 2018.
Throughout all of this, as well as the boom-bust cycles of the energy economy, Ramirez had to make sure recruitment and retention didn’t falter. This is critical because Bakersfield’s Kern County, where the bulk of the company’s operations are, is also home to other major oil and gas producers. Experienced workers are highly valued and sought after.
What was it like to manage through so many business upheavals? “My strengths include developing HR departments from scratch,” she says. She’s comfortable with meeting her KPIs because she developed her expertise working in the tactical trenches in earlier positions. “I believe a challenging career is a rewarding one. Being able to see the tangible results of hard work and how we individually add value allows me to be a product of my own decisions, therefore making it rewarding.”
And she’s hardly finished. Her plans include earning a Master of Jurisprudence in Labor Employment Law, something that will increase her qualifications to become a chief human resources officer one day.
And within an epically busy life, Ramirez still finds time to volunteer. That includes speaking to groups of teen girls and the opportunities that await them, with pay equity, if they study hard and set goals.
“I was young once too, facing adversity, and Spanish was my first language,” she says. “I had to find my own voice, to overcome my fears of success, to find my confidence.”
Lockton is proud to partner with Marisol Ramirez and Berry Petroleum. Marisol has an unwavering dedication to doing what is right for Berry Petroleum’s employees, while maintaining focus on the organization’s priorities. She is solution oriented and never loses sight of the larger picture. Marisol is clear and direct in her communication and epitomizes professionalism on all fronts. We applaud Hispanic Executive for recognizing Marisol.