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Outliers to leaders: The career journeys of 3 women traders

Read Time: 4 minutes

November 28, 2023

 

It’s no secret: Women have traditionally been underrepresented on the trading floor.

Women held only one in five roles in trading and sales in 2020, according to Barclays. Those numbers become even smaller in senior leadership positions: A 2018 Bloomberg report found that women comprise less than 5% of leaders at the world’s largest commodity houses.

While there’s still work to be done, a generation of female traders have found their place at Cargill — and they are now becoming role models for a new crop of talented women.

Three veteran traders reflect on their journeys, how things have evolved since they began their careers and why having role models matters. These are their stories.

 

A group of women traders discuss ideas during an event organized by Cargill. During an event called “Empower,” 40 Cargill traders share their experiences during talks and workshops.

 

‘When I started, there were almost no women on the trading floor’

Our commitment to providing equitable access to opportunities can impact a person's entire life. Just ask Claire Bailly.

She joined Cargill in 2009 through a diversity, equity and inclusion program. She had previous trading experience at an investment bank, but at Cargill she found her passion: commodity trading. 

A woman smiles at the camera during a Cargill event for women traders. Claire Bailly joined Cargill through a diversity, equity and inclusion program. “I’m a big fan of macroeconomics,” Claire says. “I love waking up in the morning and knowing that something that happened in Brazil is going to affect the supply chain in China. No day is like the other, and I love that.”

That, however, is not the only reason Claire loves her job. From early in her career, she has been trusted to close big trades in places like Nigeria, Indonesia and South Africa. She has even witnessed 200,000-ton vessels being loaded with the commodities that she traded.

Over the past few years, she also has witnessed Cargill becoming more diverse and more equal for everyone. It’s a safe space for women to flourish, she says.

“When I started, there were almost no women on the trading floor,” she remembers. “Now, you feel a real push to bring in more women. Younger talent joins and sees women in leadership positions, they see role models. And they find allies, too.

“You can’t just talk about diversity and inclusion; you need to see it in action. We’re seeing it in action at Cargill.”

Q: What would you say are the main qualities you need to become a successful trader?

A: “An appetite for risk and adventure — of course, based on careful analysis. And top communication skills.”

Claire Bailly Biodiesel trader

 

A group of women listen to a panel of traders during a recent Cargill event. Several global trading leaders take part in the Empower event and share their insights. 

 

‘When women do well, so does the bottom line…’

Fan Cheng’s career has been all about opportunities: creating them, taking them, making the most of them.

When she joined Cargill, right after the financial crash of 2008, she barely knew a thing about trading. “I stumbled into the field,” she says.

 woman in a white suit smiles at the camera during a recent Cargill event for women in trading. Fan Cheng says it’s energizing to share insights and experiences with other women in trading.  The volatility of the business and taking calculated risks hooked her. She loved it right away.

“Trading is a combination of risk taking, analytics and managing our clients, all together,” she reflects. “I started my career at a time when there was a lot of focus on the Asian market. I’ve had the chance to be a bridge between Asia and Western culture. I love it.”

Fan soon discovered how trading at Cargill could open doors for her. She traded in different commodity markets, from freight to iron ore, structured complex commodity deals, developed key client relationships, and managed a team of traders.

Lastly, earlier this year, she was named head of Metals' iron ore seaborne strategy and business development.

As a seasoned leader, Fan now hopes to continue building new opportunities for her team and for the newcomers in trading who are following in her footsteps.

“It’s empowering to find strength in each other,” she says. “This isn’t just about giving women more opportunities. There’s a business reason for it: When women are confident, when women see role models leading, when women do well, so does the bottom line of the business.”

Q: What is the biggest work challenge at this stage of your career?

A: “This is a transformative time for the industry. I feel fortunate to be in a position where I can help my team create new opportunities with long-lasting impact.”

Fan Cheng Strategy and business development leader

 

Two women laugh while holding water bottles commemorating the Empower event, organized by Cargill to celebrate women in trading. Traders in attendance at the Empower event have a chance to network and establish relationships with colleagues all over the world.

 

‘I want to pay it forward and give that support to younger traders…’

A year into her career as a trader for Cargill Risk Management, Xiaowen Hogue discovered that she’s not only passionate about numbers — she’s also passionate about helping people.

The numbers were in her DNA. Her family, who moved from China to the U.S. when she was 13, is comprised of math professors. Xiaowen went to college as a mathematician-to-be. But she was more interested in applying numbers to real life. That led her to a master’s degree in financial math.

A woman in a black shirt smiles at the camera during a recent Cargill event for women in trading. Xiaowen Hogue was always passionate about numbers. As a trader at Cargill, she discovered her passion for people.   There, her life took a turn.

“I met two Cargill traders; one was a professor, the other a student,” she recalls. Xiaowen was fascinated by their work, and soon applied for an internship at Cargill Risk Management. That quickly turned into a full-time position.

After a year of sitting at her desk, trading what she saw on a screen, Xiaowen was invited on a tour. She met with several corn farmers, who talked to her about their struggles.

“I realized the role Cargill, and specifically traders, play in helping these small mom-and-pop farms mitigate risk in the market,” she says. “It made me understand that every day, when I come to work, I’m helping someone improve their livelihood.”

That’s the kind of wisdom and sensibility Xiaowen tries to share with an up-and-coming crop of younger traders — especially women.

When she joined the company in 2011, there were few women in the field, and even fewer in leadership positions. Soon thereafter, her career took off: She went from intern to associate to junior trader. In 2018, she was made trading manager. She’s now a senior specialty trader.

For Xiaowen, her position is a privilege and a responsibility. She hopes to be a role model for those who are following in her footsteps.

“Now, I want to pay it forward and give that support to younger traders and hopefuls,” she says. “Reach out to me, let’s talk. I want to help you!”

Q: If you could talk to your younger self, right at the start of your career, what would you say?

A: “I would tell her to advocate for herself a bit more. To keep an open mind and try different things, to empower herself.”

Xiaowen Hogue Senior liquid oils trader

 

 

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