More needs to be done to make the commodities industry welcoming to young women, who are less willing to put up with the sexist culture their older peers endured, female executives from trading houses, banks and mining companies said.
“It isn’t the Wolf of Wall Street, but it is a tough environment,” Wendy Moss, a veteran trader at Trafigura Group, said at the FT Global Commodities Summit in Lausanne. “If you are prepared for that, it can be a very rewarding career.”
Women account for less than 5 percent of senior management at top trading houses, Bloomberg reported last year, and companies are under pressure to improve gender parity. The industry has taken fire for decisions by firms like Gerald Metals to hold industry parties at the Playboy Club in London, a casino known for women wearing low-cut, black satin leotards and fluffy tails serving drinks and dancing with guests.
Gerald said last year it wouldn’t use the club as a venue for this year’s LME Week party, but Group Chief Operating Officer Pat Crepeault on Wednesday defended past choices to use the nightclub because of its convenient location in the city’s tony Mayfair neighborhood.
“The fact that there were Playboy bunnies never concerned me,” she said.
Crepeault and a second woman, Min Zhang, were named to Gerald’s board in the wake of the Playboy Club controversy. However, Crepeault said her firm doesn’t believe that hard targets for promoting women are the best way to facilitate change.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported this month on a boozy culture of bullying and sexual harassment at Lloyd’s of London, prompting the iconic City firm to announce lifetime bans for inappropriate behavior. The seamy nightlife of major networking events such as LME Week has led women to view some industries as unwelcoming. Talented graduates entering the workforce in the post-#MeToo era are less likely to tolerate behavior that older women accepted as the price of making it in a male-dominated world.
“Younger generations have different views,” said Moss, who is Trafigura’s head of strategic management and development. “As an industry and a company we will have to meet young people halfway.”
More than 50 percent of candidates in Trafigura’s graduate training program are women, Moss said.
Women at agricultural trading house Cargill Inc. currently account for 28 percent of management roles, and the company is targeting a level of 50 percent by 2030, said Helene Ziv-Douki, risk management & sourcing director. The company with major operations in Geneva has become more flexible with working arrangements and had changed its corporate culture to be more inclusive, she said.
Hard targets to hire women are working well at MUFG Corp., said Marcie Weiss, the Japanese bank’s managing director & group head, commodity and structured trade finance for Americas investment banking.
“At banks, we need those targets because it is a very numbers-oriented business,” she said.
This article was originally published on March .27, 2019, for Bloomberg, Business.
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