Florence Huang has over 10-years of analytic experience in energy commodity trading and risk management. She recently joined RWE as a Senior North American Gas Analyst in Germany.

Originally published March 2017

Prior to joining RWE, Florence was the Director of Analytics at Edison Mission Marketing and Trading and has also worked at Sempra, TXU and AEP. Florence has an MBA in Finance from the University of Houston and is also a CFA Charter Holder.

Please tell us about the best and worst career decision you’ve ever made.
Each career decision comes up with meaning and purpose, when we look back retrospectively. I moved around with my family within the US in the early years, and felt appreciative for every opportunity within the commodity space that came my way. I find it is hard to categorize the best and worst, or success and failure, as our perspectives and priorities evolve with time and wisdom (hopefully). There are always memories to be collected, lessons to be drawn and experiences to be acquired from each step we come across.

Sometimes the path is not clear to us at the beginning, but as we move into the role and become part of it, we start to see how far we can define it, and how much impact we could actually make. However, not every one of those moments is necessarily associated with a so called “successful” career move.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I think the “having it all” expectation of our society, and the sense of the insecurity toward outside judgment could be a significant barrier for female leadership. In contrast to Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean in” attitude, I found Anne-Marie Slaughter’s counter-opinion that women still can’t have it all more authentic. Because the guys couldn’t have it all either! Most of the time we can’t and are not supposed to judge, but we do it anyway. Women shouldn’t feel obligated to stay proactive and productive and accomplished at all times in order to lead. Leadership goes well beyond the obligation and social recognition. It is a calling from within. It reflects our genuine desire and humility to serve others.

What advice would you give to women entering the commodity market?
Embrace it wholeheartedly. If an opportunity is offered to you by others, it probably means you are capable of doing it.

What qualities do you look for in individuals you hire?
Resilience, resilience and resilience!

Do you feel there are additional challenges for women when building a career within the commodity market?
Absolutely, the dynamism of the commodity market requires constant attention, seamless collaboration with others, and never ending critical thinking. Whoever wants to build a career in the commodity market has to be somewhat intellectually intrigued, and must have passion to pursue the unknown.

In your opinion, has the market changed regarding the number of women in the commodity market over the last 5 years?
I would guess it is probably about the same as it was 5 years ago. On one side, there is an increasing amount of women entering the labor force, but on the other side the labor participation ratio has not changed much compared to the pre-recession level. It is partially because small business and self-employment are on the rise, which replaced the labor force in the corporate sectors. The majority of the commodity related functions still remain within the corporations as of today.

What is the ideal next step in your career?
The ideal next step would be to continue to gain market knowledge, leverage the professional strength and intellectual interests to make informed business decisions.

What steps do you take to help balance your demanding job and your private life?
Securing the support from the spouse, partner or significant others.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Global competition and technology transformation. The young generation has to work with people with drastically different backgrounds, deal with emerging industries or business practices that no prior experiences could be relied upon.

What is your personal motto?
Understand first, then seek to be understood.

What is your view regarding the importance of female representation on various commodity trading boards?
Women bring diversity, compassion and fresh perspectives, which lead to better communication, sound judgments and business decisions. A fair representation of women on a commodity board could improve both efficiency and transparency of the organizations.