UPDATE 2-Equinor steps up diversity drive with first female finance chief

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OSLO, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Norwegian oil major Equinor said on Wednesday it had appointed Ulrica Fearn as its chief financial officer, marking the first time a woman has held the role and the first time there has been equal gender representation on its top team.

Fearn, who has been director of group finance at British telecoms firm BT since 2017, is the latest hire by Equinor’s new Chief Executive Anders Opedal who took the helm in November.

Her appointment follows the announcement of a management reshuffle a month ago that included the addition of three senior female executives. It means that, once Fearn starts her job in June, women will make up half of the company’s 12-member corporate executive committee.

“Her deep and extensive experience in leading financial operations, as well as driving operational, control and shared services results, will make a strong contribution to the leadership of Equinor,” CEO Opedal said.

The appointment brings renewal and increased diversity to Equinor’s top management, he added.

“We note that Fearn is Equinor’s first female CFO ever and will therefore improve the gender balance in the company’s top management,” Teodor Sveen-Nilsen at Sparebank 1 Markets said in note.

She is also Equinor’s first CFO hired externally.

A native of Sweden, Fearn replaces acting CFO Svein Skeie, who will become senior vice president CFO performance management and risk.

Before BT, Fearn worked for almost 20 years at drinks group Diageo Plc, holding both finance and general management positions, Equinor said.

Equinor’s last permanent CFO, Lars Christian Bacher, announced his resignation in late October. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Aditya Soni and Pravin Char)