06 Mar

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“Obstacles faced by female traders in the agricultural industry” was the topic of the leadership lecture facilitated by the MANCOSA Centre for Women Leadership. The lecture was held at the Dr Chota Motala Auditorium at the Mancosa GSB on the 2nd of March 2017 and was delivered by Ms Elizabeth Scheepers, an academic at MANCOSA. The lecture was initiated with a welcome and introductory remark by Ms Priya Ramgovind, also an academic at MANCOSA. At the start of her lecture, Ms Scheepers provided a background of agricultural practises in South Africa and stated that in 1995, an agricultural market division was formed for the trading of agricultural derivatives within the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). This move, she said, provided a platform for price discovery and efficient price risk management.

Ms Scheepers expressed that the agricultural trading industry within the JSE was however, a male dominated industry. Men, she said, outnumbered women in a 10.1 ratio and thus, it is difficult for women to thrive in this male dominated industry. She said that women still have a long way to go before they will thrive in the agricultural trading industry, without a fight. Ms. Scheepers then proceeded to give an account of the obstacles faced by women in the industry. The first obstacle according to Ms Scheepers, is that the industry was historically a male dominated one, thus ‘men view it as a boy’s club and display macho behaviour within it. As such, male leaders identify with younger men and unconsciously offer them more support and opportunities than women’. Furthermore, she stated that

‘men often nominated their friends for important roles and will accept lower standards from them than they will from a woman. Thus, there is a pressure on women in the industry to be correct at all times as any mistakes or errors will be held against them’.

Another obstacle according to Ms Scheepers is that

‘women within the industry are subjected to subtle sexism and experience a succession of micro-indignities that make it difficult to know when to speak out.’

She added that there is a lack of sponsorship and networking for women in the agricultural trading environment which results in women lacking self – confidence and feeling undervalued. As a result, women have to work harder than men to achieve the same goals. In her conclusion, she stated that contrary to the idea that women cannot be good traders in the industry, she has proved that this this is not the case as she has worked successfully within the industry for fifteen years and that the few women in the industry have also proved to be successful. She said this has helped to convey a message that the agricultural trading environment is not strictly for men and that women traders can even excel more so than men.

The lecture ended with a short question and answer session which created the opportunity for Ms Scheepers to provide encouragement as well as to explain how young female students such as those who were in the audience could nurture their aspirations and join the agricultural trading environment.

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