Proco Group

Asking for what you want in your career should be second nature

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.

Through these conversations we learnt about different career advancement strategies there are for women looking to work in commodities, including how to overcome barriers and what qualities and attributes are needed to succeed.

Below, we speak to Michelle Brouhard, Partner and Head of Commodity Research at Yaupon Capital Management about her expertise and insights on career advancement strategies for women.

Michelle Brouhard is a partner and the head of commodity research at a long/short energy asset management company. Her investing expertise focuses on energy commodities such as oil, natural gas, LNG and power. She also has experience in investing in energy equities, FX and credit based on a commodity point of view.

Michelle also serves on the board of Hope for New York, is the co-founder of Interfaith Refugee Project and is on the National Leadership Council for World Vision. She is also a children’s leader at Bible Study Fellowship. In her spare time, she participates in adventure races and marathons, including a 250 km ultra-marathon through Iceland.

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

I think the most significant barrier to female leadership is women not asking for leadership roles. Most girls aren’t raised to ask for what they want. Not the way that boys are raised to go get what they want and to ask or demand the things they want or think they deserve.

Several years ago, I had a boss that called me into his office during bonus season and he asked me what I expected for my bonus that year. I had no idea. I told him no one had ever asked me what I thought my bonus should be and I just took what they gave me and I was thankful for it. He told me to leave his office and to go figure out how much I think I should be paid. He proceeded to tell me that every single one of my male counterparts was in his office demanding what they thought they should be paid and if I didn’t ask for what I wanted, then I would just get the leftovers.

At this point in my career, I had been working for 10 years and I had no idea that I had been receiving leftovers. I knew everyone made more than me and I was often frustrated that others were promoted before me. I felt overlooked despite my hard work and positive results. I didn’t realise that there was something I could do about it and all it included was asking for what I wanted or what I thought I deserved. Of course, everyone should be promoted fairly and paid fairly, but the old adage is true, ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’.

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

Work hard, be creative in solving problems and be kind. The industry is very small and getting smaller. Kindness matters, creativity matters and hard work matters.

What qualities do you look for in individuals you hire?

Hard work is the number one quality I look for in an individual. Being smart is important and being a creative thinker is absolutely necessary when working in a field where disruptions are occurring every few months. But hard work is something that can’t be taught.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to Michelle for sharing her insights and expertise with us. Proco Group is committed to driving diversity forward across commodities. For a discussion about how to deliver this across your organisation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.