Diversity and Inclusion

International Women’s Day 2024: In Conversation with Patrícia Luís-Manso

By: Proco Group

For International Women's Day, we explored how to overcome the challenges faced when recruiting and retaining women to achieve gender parity.

As part of our focus on International Women’s Day this year, we interviewed women leaders across our three core markets to learn about their diverse career journeys, and to ask them how organisations can attract and retain more talented women into senior, executive and board-level roles. Whilst some of the insights shared were compiled into our 2024 International Women’s Day report, we wanted to use our platform to share all of the invaluable insights we heard through these interviews.

In this blog series, we are putting the spotlight on each of the women we spoke to who shared their insights and expertise. This article shares the conversation Katie Dunbar, an Associate Partner in commodities for EMEA at Proco Group, had with Patrícia Luís-Manso, Executive Director of Agribusiness Research & Sustainability at S&P Global.


To start, please will you talk me through your career to date?

I’m currently an executive director at S&P Global Commodity Insights and have responsibilities in agribusiness research and sustainability. As part of my role, I lead five teams in agribusiness of approximately 30 analysts globally, and they’re responsible for generating essential data and insights for the agribusiness industry.

I have over 20 years of experience working predominately in market intelligence in commodities – agriculture, energy and metals. I also had a short period working in investment banking as the head of intelligence for a European investment bank and, during my PhD, I worked in utilities.

There’s been a common thread of market intelligence, as well as development and leading global teams across wide geographies and across different areas of expertise, and always focusing on people and results.


What has been a highlight of your career?

One of the highlights of my career was defending my PhD when my first daughter was one year old, and I was living in a different country far away from my extended family. So, as well as having a brand-new baby, I was following a great learning path in terms of autonomy, goal setting, motivation and resilience.

Another highlight in my career was making the transition from academia to the private sector and, one decade later, leading teams outside my area of expertise. I hadn’t necessarily planned to expand my leadership capabilities outside my area of expertise and, when I was given the opportunity, I was initially a bit reluctant. It was challenging at first, however, after six months to a year, the results were starting to come, and it was really rewarding for me to make that transition.


Why do you think you felt the reluctance to step into that?

In hindsight it was because I believed my credibility as a leader derived nearly exclusively from being the expert in a certain area.


Do you think this is something that affects everyone or you think women are more likely to go in with more of a sense of doubt and concern than a man might do?

I don’t like to generalize, but I think there is some truth to it – at least from where I come from. During my upbringing, women were much less exposed to the idea of taking risks. We were taught to be well behaved and be good students first and foremost.

Learning how to influence and build credibility in different situations, not be afraid to fail and to speak up become essential skills to develop at a later stage for these women.


What have been some impactful changes you’ve seen towards gender equality at organisations you’ve worked for?

In my current organization, the most impactful change was implementing a parental leave policy of 24 weeks, for both mothers and fathers. Now there are equally as many men and women taking their six-month parental leave, and there’s no more unconscious bias around hiring a woman in case she takes the six months off, as this could happen for parents of any gender.


Have you had role models through your working life who have helped shape you as a leader?

The other day I realized that I have never had a woman as a manager. I’ve only had men as managers since I finished my bachelor’s degree 25 years ago.

"However, within the corporate world, I have had a lot of people who really inspired me. I can think of two managers who lead with empathy, and I really felt sponsored and supported by them. They mentored me and they saw my potential. One manager saw that I would become a leader before I could even imagine it myself."

What do you think needs to change in the industry to redress the gender balance?

I think there are different dimensions to it.

One is to look at the simple things like how a team is working and physically where decisions are being made. Some decisions might be made during weekend breaks, playing bridge, going to golf, at dinners or in meetings that start at 5pm in the evening. If those behaviours are not questioned, this can be very challenging for women – specifically if a woman has young kids or a family to fit into that. Many times, if you’re not present when those conversations happen, you lose opportunities.

Another thing I think is very important is to start changing the face of the industry.

"My “five-word story” is to empower the next generation of women leaders. One of the things I really put a lot of my energy in the past was to make sure we invited competent female speakers at the industry events we organized."

The first time I presented at a very big industry event back in 2009, there were 500 people attending and I was the only woman speaking. There are competent women out there, so let’s find them. Through these very visible events, we can change the face of the industry.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to Patrícia for sharing her expertise and insights with us.

Read the International Women’s Day report

Click the button below to read our full International Women’s Day report, which highlights the current state of play across our three core markets and shares how to attract and retain talented women into senior, executive and board-level roles.

Katie Dunbar

Associate Partner | Commodities | EMEA

Katie leads our EMEA dry bulk executive search practice, executing mandates for trading and analysis roles in Agriculture, Softs and Metals.

She has 9 years’ experience partnering with a wide range of clients from start-ups to FTSE 100 companies across a variety of sectors, including commodities, shipping and procurement.

Katie has curated a consultative style, ensuring reliable partnerships with some of the most reputable firms, and close relationships with the best talent in the market, enabling consistent and swift delivery on tough projects.

T: +44 12 7364 8080 E: katie.dunbar@weareprocogroup.com