Entering the commodity market – be yourself and be authentic

Entering the commodity market – be yourself and be authentic

For International Women’s Day, we approached several senior women in the commodities industry to discuss some of the barriers to women entering leadership roles and the commodities market.

Below, we speak to Jill Wallach, Chief Legal Counsel at BTG Pactual.

Jill is currently chief legal counsel for the international operations of BTG Pactual, one of the leading emerging markets investment banks. In her current role, she is responsible for legal and regulatory across the bank’s asset management, investment banking and private banking divisions. 

Jill holds a Master of Laws (LLM) in international business law from the University of Salzburg in Austria and the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California. She earned her Juris Doctorate (JD) from New York Law School in 1992 and a Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York in Albany in 1986. Between 2003 and 2009, she served on both the securities regulation and financial reporting committees of the New York Bar Association. More recently, she was a featured speaker at the Practicing Law Institute covering its 2008 Securities Update and has attended Harvard’s Executive Leadership Program.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Gender discrimination first and foremost. Discriminatory attitudes are often veiled by inaccurate ‘facts’ about women’s capacity for leadership. Females are presented as not being aggressive enough, or if they are assertive, they are deemed too aggressive. In addition to this, they can lack the self-confidence required for the job and not be taken seriously.   

What advice would you give to women entering the commodity market?

Be yourself and be authentic! Do not be afraid to be confident, assertive and self-promoting. Men have been conditioned to do this and women should follow this lead. Another barrier to women in leadership is the lack of senior or visibly successful female role models and mentors. Find a mentor in a leadership position and whom you admire in the commodities field and will guide you and offer support to facilitate your learning or development. Because men generally occupy the highest positions of leadership in the commodities field, male mentors are more likely to be in powerful positions to open doors, share contacts and meeting opportunities.

What qualities do you look for in individuals you hire?

Assuming that the individual has the required legal expertise for an in-house commodities attorney, client (in this case, traders and management) focus is key.  A candidate must realise that while one must serve their clients capably and honestly, business people want to work with someone who is pragmatic, who can assess risk and produce well-reasoned and results-oriented advice. In addition to this, oral and written communication skills are important – a candidate should be able communicate clearly, concisely and persuasively.  Finally, I would seek colleagues who are collegial, collaborate with others effectively and cultivate relationships with colleagues, clients, experts and vendors.  

Read more about how Proco is supporting the #BalanceforBetter campaign here.

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