Sugaronline Editorial - You go, girl! By Meghan Sapp
Published: 05/12/2017, 2:51:00 PM
There have traditionally been few women in the sugar industry, but that may start to change.
It comes as little surprise that there are so few women working in the sugar industry. In reality, there are a lot more than it may seem at industry events because they work in the back office, in logistics, in administration or human resources, but when it comes to women traders or in leadership positions, their lack of participation is not only seen but also felt.
One of the highlights of this year’s New York Sugar Week was a Women in Sugar event hosted by Macquarie and ECRUU that sought to help remedy this imbalance and to create a community of practice where professional development, support and a network of strong women leaders in the industry could begin to work together. It wasn’t the solution to the problem, but it definitely created a spark.
With the first half of the event dedicated to market updates from around the world, it was far from the standard sugar conference where the audience asked a handful of questions following the same presentations seen at every event where everything shared everyone already knew. There was dialogue between the audience and presenters, a natural conversation that evolved not back and forth but from left to right to front to back.
It started off slow, with voices quiet and difficult to be heard but as it became shockingly obvious that the more than 30 women in the room were world class experts in sugar trade, the conversation became an inquisitive debate rich in different perspectives that questioned and engaged. It was nothing short of a thing of beauty. The only problem was that once the audience really got warmed up, time quickly ran out. But there’s no doubt that it could have gone on for most of the day, and next year, it should.
The women showed respect for each other’s opinion, no one judging or criticising but engaging and probing. Equally important, they had respect for keeping on time because yes, there was pink champagne waiting, and no one was going to be responsible for missing that.
But beyond the atypical conversations of a sugar event was the sharing of experiences by several senior women in the industry who shared not only their career paths but their visions of leadership, of sponsoring women to achieve their own career goals and just the benefits of having women on the team.
One very clear example was shared by a leading trade executive who explained how trading teams with balanced gender representation had the steadiest results. Women typically excel at cutting losses early and getting out of a bad trade before it goes too far south, but are conservative when it comes to profitable runs. Men, on the contrary, run the profits as long as they can go, and go and go but are sometimes too slow in cutting losses. A mixed team, however, benefited from both strengths providing steady results, if not flashy ones.
Women have a long way to go until they become a more regular feature in the sugar trade, but thanks to programmes such as Women@Macquarie and internal company polices working to identify, mentor and empower women for the future, there’s a real chance to make a difference that will provide real value to the industry.