The recent furore created by the revelation of BBC salaries that appeared to exhibit a gender pay divide has caused working women around the world to look around them and wonder whether such a gap exists in their industries, too.
While everyone will have their own opinion, and experiences, on the subject of gender equality, at Proco Commodities we have been involved in a huge number of projects aimed at strengthening the diversity of businesses operating in commodity trading. Most seek to address the shortage of women in senior roles through hiring and retention policies, and equal pay for the few women that do make it to the top is not an issue. Being in a unique position to evaluate the landscape, we believe we can confidently say there is no sign of a gender pay gap in commodity trading: men and women doing equal roles are paid the same.
In some businesses, it has taken hard work based on sound recommendations and actionable solutions to eradicate any differences in treatment between the genders on pay. In others, differences never existed in the first place. This is an industry where remuneration is tied heavily to output and PnL, and those that work hard, regardless of their race, religion or gender, are well rewarded based on sound metrics of performance.
That is not to say the commodities market does not have its own challenges around gender diversity; it certainly does. Whether looking at energy, metals, oil and gas or other commodities, this is not an industry at the front of mind for younger generations coming out of university, whether male or female. Seen as aligned to science and engineering, and with a growing emphasis on quantitative skillsets, commodities trading is rarely promoted by parents, teachers or social media, and struggles to attract females from the word go.
Frequently I am asked by clients to help them increase gender diversity among their senior ranks. At that point, they are already late in the game, because building the pool of entry-level female talent is the first step on the road to more diversity at the top.
There are commodities firms, such as BP and BHP Billiton, that are leading the way in addressing gender diversity across their ranks, and that is to be applauded. Certainly, we need to be banging the drum of the industry to attract more women at all levels – the good news is that we have salaries on our side.
The highly discretionary nature of compensation in commodities, to include large bonus elements in addition to basic salary, appears to work in favour of the achievement of equal pay. After all, one of the great levellers of talent is remuneration based on outputs rather than inputs; removing judgements about hours at the desk, or air miles travelled, and simply paying based on results. In an industry that worked this out many years ago, and where everyone’s contribution is rewarded, it is perhaps no surprise that a pay divide is rarely, if ever seen.
Of course, I am not claiming that the commodities industry is immune to cases of discrimination, or that individuals, or firms, do not get it wrong at times. But on the whole, I can say that at Proco Commodities we have never heard of a male being offered more money than a female for the same role in commodities, and we have seen no evidence of such behaviour among our significant network of contacts.
There is much to be done toward addressing the shortage of senior women working in commodities, but it is great to see that those that are dedicating their career to the industry are fairly paid for the work they do. Bright young talented females would do well to add commodities to their list of career options, because those prepared to work hard can certainly achieve the recognition they deserve.
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