Embracing gender equality in the trading business

By Johahn Bhurrut and Kirana Soerono March 19, 2015

Traders today can monitor the slightest changes in commodity prices on a 5-inch screen in real time. And yet, while the trading industry has evolved so much over time, one thing remains largely stuck in the old days: The industry is still predominantly male. The London Metal Exchange (LME), the world’s largest market in options and futures contracts on base and other metals, is famously known as the “old boys club.” In 2013, the only female trader on LME then, caused an outcry as she quit, leaving an all-male trading floor.

At Cargill, diversity is a key value. Equal gender opportunity is one of the critical factors to business success. The Cargill Metals Supply Chain (CMSC) and Ocean Transportation (OT) businesses in Asia Pacific are showing the way forward. In such a male-dominated industry, women account for 50 percent of the CMSC leadership team, and around 40 percent of OT’s traders and commercial team are female. This clearly sets an example and dispels the archaic view that women can’t succeed in some professions.

“Traditionally, trading has been a male-dominated industry,” said Lee Kirk, head of the CMSC business in Asia. “But with the way the world is changing, having a diverse trading team is actually more powerful. A team consisting solely of a single gender is more likely to succumb to groupthink which can affect the business. On the other hand, having a gender balance keeps everyone on their toes, and women generally add more risk-averseness in the trading patterns."

Andrew Barker, head of the OT business in Asia Pacific, echoed that sentiment. “Gender equality at the workplace has been an ongoing agenda for decades but the change in the trading business has been somewhat slow,” he said. “I see it as a natural progression in the industry, and we are glad to be setting an example."