According to a 2018 Bloomberg report, ‘Going into the Lion’s Cage, figures show that in the top echelons of leadership at the world’s biggest commodity traders, less than 5% are women. In commodity houses predominantly led by men, and in an industry valued at approximately $2 trillion worldwide, women account for a minority of senior management. An analysis of data for 125 common occupations – conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2018 – showed that the sector where the gender pay gap was the widest was in financial services: commodities, securities and sales agents. For full-time work in this sector, women can expect to be paid on average 36.1% less than men.

Since April 2017 in the UK, changes in the Equality Act, require all UK companies employing 250 people or more to report on the gender pay gap, alongside the on-going review of obstacles preventing more women from reaching senior positions in business and FTSE- listed corporate boards. This change in the Equality Act, is not the same as equal pay for equal work but is calculated based on six separate figures that are then averaged out. These include both the mean and median pay gap, the mean and median gender gap for bonus payments, the proportion of men and women who receive bonuses, and the proportion of men and women working in each quartile band. As of 2019, both the mean and median figures across almost every occupation show that women are on average earning less than their male counterparts.

In terms of addressing the gender pay gap and the lack of women in senior roles in the commodities industry, some of the biggest names in the sector don’t have a single female employed in a senior executive role. Some companies in the typically male-dominated sector are working to redress the balance and place a higher value on diversity with no gender pay gap; however, many of these companies are overlooked when official figures are released, which tend to focus on the biggest players in the industry. In this respect, it is smaller companies, such as the independently owned Gerald Group, one of the world’s oldest metals merchants, that are leading the way. The commodity trading company has a better gender balance than most trading houses.

On the other hand, Mercuria Energy Group in Geneva has a third of its top leadership positions filled by women. There are also several females heading up smaller trading merchants, such as Kolmar Group AG and Petraco Oil Co. Mining group Rio Tinto, recently announced the addition of 3 female non-executive board members, the Group had one of the least diverse boardrooms of world’s biggest companies. Last year, BHP promoted three women to its senior executive team as the company looks to rebalance its workforce to be 50% female by 2025. Key recommendation in the Hampton-Alexander Review, which published its first report in 2016 and has published annually thereafter include a 33% target for women on FTSE 350 boards and senior leadership roles, respectively, by the end of 2020.

Research shows that companies can be their best by cultivating a diverse and strong leadership team and workforce. People think differently based on their own personal backgrounds, experiences, culture, education, and they bring different perspectives, thoughts and ideas, which can only be positive. It starts a dialogue for a creative and collaborative process that inevitably has a positive impact on the organisation. Understanding the business culture of the company is important, so is supporting a diversified workforce - this is not necessarily specific to gender but diversity in general.

Companies need to have the right polices and environment in place to support a level playing field and to support women as they navigate work-life balance as well. Gerald’s senior management works together with HR to actively monitor and manage compensation levels to ensure that imbalances don’t exist among staff, because of gender. The Group fosters a merit-based culture, where individuals can achieve great things based on abilities, rather than because of/in spite of their gender and believes in mentoring and nurturing employees to attract, develop and retain diverse skills, whether man or woman. As it aims for equality, it believes it is ‘hedging’ its bets in the right way. Gerald Group’s Chief Operating Officer and member of the Board of Directors, Pat Crepeault has been with the Group for 25 years, “The Group has always invested in me, supported and promoted me. Gerald does not look at gender, they look for people who are going to support the Group, in all of its endeavours and help to achieve its goals.”

January 2020 saw Gerald Group appoint its third woman, Patricia Nikolopoulos to the Group’s Board, alongside promoting her to Group CFO. Commenting on the appointment Craig Dean, Gerald Group’s CEO, “I am proud that fifty per of executive seats on Gerald’s Board of Directors are represented by women, which I believe is an industry first. Collectively, our seven board members have around 150 years of experience in the global commodities sector, which demonstrates a strong leadership team, and tremendous commitment, perseverance and loyalty to the Group.” 50% of Gerald Group’s trading desks (Copper Concentrates, Iron Ore and Precious Metals) respectively, are led by women, Min Zhang, who has worked at Glencore, Shan Radstone and Zhuoying Jing. Of the current employees, 40% are women, many of whom have worked at the Group for several years. However, figures from Bloomberg research demonstrate that these figures are still the exception rather than a general code of practice.

Women bring more to the trading nature of the industry, with inherent skills such as ‘helicopter vision’ to help tackle the increasing challenges that the industry is seeing in general. The London Metals Exchange (LME) rolled out its “code of conduct” to traders, members and clients for the first time in 2019, to help curb excessive drinking and the negative spotlight on the industry. Part of the problem could be that women are still not made to feel welcome in commodities trading, resulting in a lack of talent entering into the industry. One female oil trader who has worked in the derivatives and physical markets for more than a decade spoke to the Financial Times in 2018 about a conversation she had with another young female graduate. The graduate stated that she had been advised at almost every turn to enter into a more sales-oriented role rather than pursuing a career in trading. That the situation had not changed much in ten years seemed shocking, but it appears that there are still many barriers for women considering entering the commodities trading markets.

Some of the barriers that women come up against are simply preconceived notions about the type of personality required to be a successful trader. Attributes such as logic, aggressiveness, being analytical, book building and taking risks are still seen as positive in terms of hiring traders. However, experienced traders have shown that often, it is not having any one trait or combination of traits that works, but more being able to recognise one’s own strengths and weaknesses and formulate a trading strategy that consistently plays to those strengths. One benefit of the trading pay scheme is that it is mostly performance related. This means that the women who have the tenacity to get and maintain roles within commodities trading, may soon find that their pay is equal to or even greater than that of their male counterparts if their strategies are sound.

Much still needs to be done to equalise the gender balance and the pay gap in reality across all industries, along with the knowledge that that as more women take on senior roles, this can have a positive effect on a business adding billions to national economies. For companies where the cultural shift has largely happened, and there is a top down drive to real equality, change is already happening.


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Author's Bio: 

I am interested in topics about self-education, Social writing, motivation and Technology.