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Pink Ties: Trading on Wall Street Part I, Breaking Stereotypes

Leading up to WU’s Career Panel on the 27th of September, we thought we’d start some conversations about what it's like to be a woman in different industries, at different stages of their careers. In this edition of Pink Ties, Hsin interviews Jade*, a newly-joined Trading Analyst at Goldman Sachs. In the first part of this interview, they discuss what work has been like for Jade, and what it’s like being the only woman on her team globally. Stay tuned for part two!

If you’re interested in getting tips on applying to a job, learning about different lines of work, or in gender-related workplace issues, join us on the 27th of September from 4-6pm at WU’s Career Panel. Learn more here, and register here.

*Not her actual name.

Hey Jade, it’s so nice talking to you again. I’m thinking we can start with you introducing yourself to our readers?

Hi! Yes, thank you so much for having me. I am a recent graduate from a US university. I studied Economics and Political Science and recently started a job as a Trader in New York City. I was born and raised in Singapore but moved to the US for college, and have been really fortunate to have gained an opportunity to stay in the US for a little bit longer. In my free time, I love reading history and investing books, travelling, and cooking vegan recipes.

I know you moved to New York pretty recently and started your new job there. What’s that been like?

It’s been really interesting and overwhelming -- but in a good way. It’s been a whole rollercoaster ride moving here in the middle of COVID, especially since it was a city that was considered the epicenter of the pandemic for a little bit. The city is much quieter and feels significantly emptier, which is really sad to see. But it’s also been good for me as it means I don’t really have any distractions as I get used to work life. Especially after being in quarantine and sleeping 10 hours a day, going into the office everyday and working 13-15 hours a day has been quite the adjustment. My hours are 6.30am-8.30/9pm everyday. It’s been tough but I have a fantastic team and am learning tons.

What do you like most about what you've been doing everyday?

I really love how my job is very in touch with the markets and current events. I sound like such a nerd saying this but I really loved reading newspapers as a kid. I would spend hours on a Sunday reading every article in the FT. I barely absorbed half of what I was reading but I was fascinated by political and economic events. So to be in a job that is directly impacted by almost every news headline feels like such a privilege to me. Almost anything that happens affects the way we’re thinking about our next move in my job. Whether it’s hurricanes along the Gulf Coast of the US, the stages of a COVID vaccine, tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia or what Trump is tweeting today, they all inform our next move. I loved reading about these things, and now they’re directly relevant to my job.

I’ve heard that this is very much a male-dominated industry and I’ve heard stories about what it’s like for you to be a woman in that context. I’m curious what it’s like now that you’ve started full-time.

Yeah, globally I’m the only woman on the team, which has been interesting. We do have women on the research and sales side but for trading, I’m the only one. It is uncommon for women to be traders. Last week alone, I had three separate incidents in which I was mistaken as a man on phone calls, and my voice isn’t deep. People just really don’t expect women to be traders, and I think it’s because of the stereotypical image people have of traders and the trading floor. The trading floor is often thought of as a high intensity environment where men in suits are cursing and shouting at each other and on the phone. The job of a trader is stereotypically thought to be very stressful, and people say that women are too emotional to be in that position, or are not able to have the grit and the ability to handle such situations and high-stakes decisions. These obviously are not true and they are much friendlier environments than often portrayed, although it is very intense.

Stereotypes and assumptions aside, I think the trading floor is a fantastic place for a woman because it is possibly one of the few workplaces that are 100% meritocratic. Traders are judged based on a single number - the profit and loss they bring in. Regardless of who you are or where you are from, if you do well, no way can say otherwise.

So far, even though I am the only woman on my team, I have been treated as an equal and there haven’t been “filters” created for me just because I'm a woman. In my broader team there are three other women, and they’ve been extremely supportive and have naturally become mentors of mine. They took me out for drinks last weekend and told me, if you don’t come up to us and ask us a question every week, you’re not utilising us enough. There aren’t many women traders so it really feels like a privilege to be one.

Did you have any reservations about becoming a trader, knowing that the field is extremely male-dominated?

No, in fact it wasn’t even something I actually thought about before. Growing up in a liberal family with two sisters, I never saw gender imbalance as an obstacle. To be honest, I never really saw it as an issue till I got to college, as I was always told I was equal and felt equal. When I realized it was an issue, it also didn’t bother me too much as there are women in finance we can look up to and have made it. Citi just got it’s first female CEO, Jane Fraser, who’s the first woman ever to lead a Wall Street bank. Fidelity is led by Abigail Johnson and Temasek is led by Ho Ching. None of these women got intimidated and neither should we.

I’m really curious about the mentors you mentioned earlier. Do you feel that the mentorship is one you couldn’t have with a man?

Yeah, I don’t think so. I think men could be great mentors too but in a different way. Having a woman mentor is just much more natural as you just gravitate to the few women who exist on your floor. Even for these mentors, in looking for their own mentees, it was a very natural movement because women want to support other women, since they have experienced what a newer woman on the floor is going to go through. A man might want to support you too, but it’s just easier to connect with another woman initially, especially when you're new and getting to know other people. So it's nice that this network of women is so strong to ensure that we all support each other, especially since there are so few of us.

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