Driving Gender Diversity on the Trading Floor

Kunal Shah, head of Global Currencies and Emerging Markets Trading in EMEA, speaks about the realities of being a trader and the importance of gender diversity on the trading floor.

By Kunal Shah

I often get asked about life on the trading floor; what I spend most of my time doing, and – on occasion – whether the stereotypes surrounding trading hold true.

T​here are countless misconceptions about the role of a trader and, more importantly, the character and personality traits it takes to be one. Films and other clichés have no doubt fueled these misplaced ideas over the years, but the reality is actually very different. The trading world has evolved immensely and this is down to a number of factors.

Firstly, one trader’s responsibilities often looks very different from another’s – there is now a huge breadth of roles within trading across different products, markets and platforms. The pace of activity and balance between “art versus science” can vary significantly.

Secondly, there’s an increasing amount of collaboration with other functions. For example, dealing with clients is no longer left to the sales teams; many traders now spend a large amount of time engaging directly with them.

Another welcome development are the advances in automation brought about by technology. So much of a trader’s workflow is now automated, and with that, the culture of a trading floor has changed. If you walk into the job expecting to see lots of shouting over each other and multiple phones in hand, you will probably be pretty disappointed. I’ve found for our employees with families or other external responsibilities, technology has been of particular benefit in allowing increased flexibility and continuity for teams even when someone is not glued to their screens.

There is one stereotype in trading however which, unfortunately, still holds some truth; that historically the trading floor has been more male-dominated.

This is something we’re putting huge efforts into changing at Goldman Sachs. Diversity is a non-negotiable for us; our clients and the communities in which we operate are diverse, and so must we be. I’m therefore incredibly excited that we are recruiting for our third annual Women’s Trader Academy, a programme offering women graduating in 2021 the opportunity to learn more about trading. Through a combination of experiential learning, work shadowing and mentorship, candidates develop their existing strengths, learn from our professionals and build confidence, providing the ideal launch pad for a career in the financial markets. The programme consists of three onsite training days at our London office, distance learning via mentoring from traders, access to online resources and career advice, and preparation for the coming year’s summer internship interviews.

One of the core goals of the programme is simply to demystify what it’s actually like to be a trader, which we hope in turn will encourage more women into this profession.

Put simply, the job of a trader is to absorb and analyse large amounts of information, make sound judgment calls and use intuition to make decisions. These are attributes that any person, from any walk of life and any educational background, may exhibit – and, in my view, are the traits that make a good trader. They are in no way, shape or form gender specific.

Continuing to push for increased gender diversity on the trading floor, and more broadly in all areas of our business, has been and will continue to be a huge priority for me. I’m looking forward to welcoming the next cohort of our Women’s Trader Academy.