‘BLM’ and ‘#Metoo’ are probably the most significant cultural movements of recent times. They both review and revise received history to better record the disadvantages faced by groups identified by a shared ‘Protected Characteristic’ (Equality Act 2010 terminology). These movements have sought to highlight and combat the inherited effects of those disadvantages for the respective groups today.
Significantly though, disadvantages still exist. The Finance and Trading industry has not been, nor is, immune to this problem, particularly in the case of gender equality.
I caught up with Samuel Leach Founder, CEO, and Director of Samuel and Co. Trading, Yahoo Finance No.1 ‘Trader to follow in 2020’, Social Media influencer, TED speaker, and contributor for ‘Forbes’. This is what he had to say about working in finance and his take on gender equality.
Gender equality within Finance and Trading
Gender equality can be assessed by a number of measures both quantitative and qualitative, but whichever way one looks at it Finance has a significant problem.
Looking at numbers of women in leadership and management roles: – a Harvard Business School study found only 9% of senior roles in VC were occupied by women, and 6% within Private Equity; and, a Credit Suisse study found only 6% of all executives at financial service companies are female.
Regarding gender pay inequality, perhaps inevitably given the above datum: Credit Suisse found that whilst the mean gender pay gap (UK wide) is 10%, within Finance that more than doubles to 22%.
Inequality can also be viewed in terms of Finance’s culture. For example, the Alpha Male stereotype has been elevated to The Image of the industry by the film The Wolf of Wall Street and others. This can act in two ways. Firstly, those in Finance may feel pressured to conform to a certain way of acting and thus perpetuate the stereotype, and secondly, those considering a career in Finance may be alienated (or attracted) by a perception (accurate or otherwise) and thus facilitate a self-selection bias. This bias, in turn, prevents culture change. I suspect we have all witnessed or been subject to behaviour that provides evidence to support the hypothesis.
Fortunately, the movements outlined above have forced this industry, as well as others, to reflect on how those with various Protected Characteristics are viewed and treated. The prospects for the future are promising as, in one indicative American study, 42% of students at the Harvard Business School in 2019 were women. The challenge then becomes: how do these students overcome history, in conjunction with others affect change at all levels, and rise to the top of the industry?
Responding to the challenge
There can be no doubt that there is an issue in our industry that needs to be resolved, however, what is the vision that we are working towards?
- Should our industry mirror the respective prevalence of Protected Characteristics in the broader population?
- Should the progression of individuals with certain Protected Characteristics be facilitated to overcome statistics outlined above?
- Should we aim for a ‘true’ meritocracy?
On the face of it, these questions appear to be ultimately aligned. The recent case of the Mayor of Paris being fined for hiring “too many women” in breach of gender parity legislation, however, demonstrates that unless we correctly identify the outcome that we desire then steps taken in good faith may not be effective.
To the individual, this is largely academic though and I think there are approaches to be taken on an individual level to assist in overcoming barriers:
1. Identify an appropriate role model/mentor. Why re-invent the wheel? Find a way that works, that you identify with, and run with it;
2. Identify your strengths so you can promote them, and identify your weaknesses so you can either level up or conduct business so as not to bring them in to play;
3. Develop methods of Conflict Management and know when to use them. Knowing what skills to bring to which situation will enable you to win round or overcome those who may oppose you;
4. Identify yourself as a leader. A leader affects change through inspiring others, and this can be achieved at all levels of a business. Change can be achieved through different means be it changing perceptions, pushing yourself forward for greater opportunities, or identifying ways to make the workplace more compatible with the concerns of the female workforce.
I have written previously that men have a role in making our industry more inclusive and diverse. But men should equally be aware that they are not to cast themselves as the cliched heroes of this story. Women have what it takes to be successful in the industry, it is a matter of supporting, empowering, and changing preconceptions.
Career in Trading
I started my career as a first-year university student and traded a £2,000 university bursary (risky and not to be recommended!) up to £178,000 within the year. I worked my way up in a private bank and set up my own company. Since then I have grown my business significantly and have diversified widely. I am hoping to retire in my 30s to devote my energy to things that really matter to me personally. If you consolidate your skillset, your understanding of the market in which you work, and most importantly your mindset then this is what you can expect from a career in trading.
It is not easy. This career demands hard work; challenging but realistic goal-setting; risk management; and the temperament to deal with success and adversity. But it is incredibly rewarding financially, intellectually, socially, and personally.
I have met incredible people and built amazing relationships within my network, empowered junior traders to reach their full potential, and grown as a person myself. I am now in a position to promote philanthropic causes and make a big difference beyond one’s normal sphere of influence. For example, my clothing line is working to meet several global challenges including plastic sea debris and preserving bio-diversity and is bringing about real change.
If these are the things that motivate you, as they do for me, then you should seriously consider a career in trading.