August 2, 2007
“Trading is a Man’s Game,” but is that really true? If you walked onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange or the Chicago Mercantile Pits that may seem the case. If you enter the electronic trading floors of big banks like Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase or Goldman Sachs on the other hand, things are quite different. Although still male dominated, it is clear that gender has become less of an issue in a world where how fast you can click a button is far more important than how loud you can yell. Women are sitting along side men and not just as their trading assistants. In fact, gender only becomes a problem if you let it be one. Don’t be mistaken, as a female who has worked both as a market maker and prop trader at JPMorgan Chase, I know that women have to work harder to achieve the same level of success as men, but the same time, I do not believe in the glass ceiling. I have met countless successful women in Finance and Trading to believe that if there is a glass ceiling, it is only as thick as you perceive it.
Strong and successful women have always been apart of my life. At JPMorgan I first did a brief stint on the Credit Derivatives Structuring desk as a part of my Analyst Rotation program, which is completely different from my current level of expertise in foreign exchange. The head of the group at the time was a woman by the name of Blythe Masters. When I met her, being impressed was an understatement. At the time, she was young, and already the head of everything related to Credit Derivatives (from structuring to trading to sales). But what was most impressive was not the success that she achieved by that time, but the fact that she was a pioneer in recognizing the potential of credit derivatives. She single handedly convinced regulators around the world that these products were sound because it moved risk off of a bank’s balance sheet. In less than 10 years, the market ballooned from a tiny niche business to over $12 trillion. Blythe has achieved the pinnacle of success in finance. The last time I heard about her, she was both a managing director and Chief Financial Officer of JP Morgan’s Investment Bank.
Another woman who I worked with briefly was Angie Long, a derivatives trader who later went on to be named one of the Top 100 Highest Earning Traders by Trader Monthly magazine in 2005. When I met her, she was an ambitious Associate on the High Yield credit derivatives trading desk and in 2007, she was promoted to head of the desk at the ripe age of 29.
When I moved onto the foreign exchange desk, there were countless other examples of successful female traders. The head of USD/JPY trading was a female. On the prop side, I worked as an Associate for a female Managing Director. I am sure that both of these women worked hard to earn their stripes and although JPMorgan Chase could have been exceptionally female friendly that is probably not the only reason why they became so successful. There are definitely more men in the trading business than women but the great thing about trading is that at the end of the day, your success and failure is only measured in numbers. If you make more money than your male counterpart, that is all that matters. Trading is very high pressure, especially when the markets get active. Decisions need to be made in a split second – if you thrive in those environments, then the illusion of glass ceilings should be just that, an illusion. However on a day to day basis, having thick skin helps because it does get brutal. I have seen many trading assistants or junior traders pushed to tears. As a woman, you may need to work harder to prove yourself, but that is just a part of the challenge and successful women traders are the type that thrive rather than complain about challenges.
Having graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business at the age of 18, I never believed that anything was impossible. As probably one of the youngest internationally published financial authors ever, my book Day Trading the Currency Market published by Wiley & Sons in 2005 has received widespread acclaim. Not being afraid to take risks is a big part of being successful in life as well as being successful in trading because trading is all about taking risk. The difference is to take calculated risks.
**This is the intro to an article for a new free e-book that I am contributing to. It is geared towards women traders.