In our latest addition to our Women in Trading series, we speak to Rosalind Song - a BluFX trader - about her experiences trading as a woman, how she began trading to make more time for novel writing, and the importance of STEM education.
Our Women in Trading series is designed to give space to female traders in the industry - talking about their experiences of forex, training, and giving advice to other women interested in a career in trading. Read our Q&A with Rosalind below.
Want to read more from the Women in Trading series? See our previous Q&As here>>
Women in Trading: Rosalind Song
Could you tell me a bit about how you began trading - and what interested you about it in the first place?
Back in April of 2018, a friend messaged me and asked if I was interested in learning forex. I had to ask her what the word "forex" meant. She explained it and got me enrolled into my first trading education program. At the time, I wasn't making any career progress where I was working, and I saw the potential to support myself with a flexible schedule and have more time in my day for writing. I'm an aspiring novelist, so I like the idea of spending part of the day using analytical, mathematical thinking as a trader, and then shifting gears into artistic creativity as a writer. It's a great way to excel in both areas and keep different skillsets sharp.
Was it difficult or scary to move from your job to trading, or did losing your job in the pandemic help you make that jump - could you talk a little bit about that?
Before the pandemic, my plan was to keep my job for awhile so I could buy myself the time I needed to feel like I had thoroughly studied and practiced trading on demo long enough to feel confident and like I was ready to go professional. That plan didn't quite work out. I live in a city with an economy almost entirely dependent upon tourism, and that included my job at the time. I was laid off in March, 2020, due to the pandemic, but I decided to make the best of it. I used the extra time to accelerate my pace of study and practice with trading. This led to my ability to also put together a cohesive and effective trading plan that fits my personality and trading style.
"I never had reversal patterns explained to me, or divergences, or sideways markets, or support and resistance." Read our Q&A with Marina Villatoro here>>
In your experience, what is it like to be a woman in trading - which is quite a traditionally male-dominated industry?
Here's a funny example: In 2019, I flew to Miami to attend a trading event. It was my first time visiting that city and the event was held at a gorgeous, 5-star hotel right on the Miami River. From the restaurant, I could see yachts moving past, just a few feet from the window. It was amazing, and it opened my eyes to the lifestyle I could live someday as a trading professional. After breakfast, I made my way to the convention hall to register for the event. I was an hour and a half early and was one of the first people in line.
As the traders filed in behind me, I looked down the line and saw men, and then more men, and then more men. Several of them assumed I was an event staff member and started asking me how to register and if I was selling t-shirts. I had to answer many times that I was there as a trader. I got responses like, "Wow! You're a trader?". After I registered, I still had an hour to wait for the event to begin, so I made my way to the back of the line to leave the registration area. A woman walked up to me, wide-eyed, and said, "Another woman trader? I'm buying you a drink!" She hooked her arm around mine and off we went.
In general, being a woman in trading has not presented much of a problem, especially when compared to the discrimination women face in other male-dominated industries like IT and programming. Most of my trading mentors have been men, with the exception of two instructors who are women. My experience is that most men in trading are respectful and very helpful when sharing tips, training, and ideas with me.
In fact, I have been in enough trading groups and forums now that I receive a lot of messages from men asking for my advice and opinions. I have only dealt with a small number of men in the trading space who were patronizing, dismissive, or who dealt with me in a dishonest way. However, those were by far exceptions to the rule, and most of the men traders I have been in contact with have been enthusiastic about the idea of attracting more women to this industry.
"40% of all behaviour is genetic, and 60% is learned - which is good news, because if we’ve learned something, we can unlearn it to learn a better pattern of behaviour." Read our Q&A with trading psychology coach Mandi Rafsendjani here>>
Why do you think there are so few women in the trading industry, and how do you think the industry could be more open and welcoming to female traders?
I think the biggest reason is cultural and it actually begins with the way girls are raised and educated. I'm an American and American culture tends to have rigid gender roles - much more so than more progressive countries like Norway. When I was growing up, teachers would assume that girls could not be good at math, so the boys in math class received more of their attention. The girls were expected to excel more in English and Home Economics and we got more attention from teachers in those areas. We were also encouraged to focus more on extracurricular activities centered on homemaking, like 4-H. When I joined 4-H, there was only one boy, and he got teased by the other boys for joining. I came to his defence and told him I thought it was really cool that he was in our group. So gender role expectations pose problems for all children.
Getting more women into trading begins in school, with emphasising STEM education just as strongly for girls as for boys. What I see in the trading world, specifically, is that there are plenty of women earning high incomes from trading, but so many of them are doing it quietly. I don't see enough of them stepping up to take leadership roles in the industry, and I have heard feedback from a couple of them that they really don't want to. Perhaps there is a fear of not being perceived as serious traders. That's why I have laid out a plan for myself to gradually take on more leadership responsibilities in this industry as I reach the benchmarks I have set to establish my track record as a trader.
Psychology plays an important role in trading. What are the most common things, in your experience, that block a trader’s progress?
Speaking of trading psychology, I think some women may assume that trading is not for them because they believe they are too emotional to deal with risking money. Actually, the opposite is true. Recent studies I have read state that when hooked up to measuring equipment, women test out to be less emotionally reactive than men. Again, the difference is cultural. Men are taught to hide their emotions, no matter how strong, and we women are encouraged to express our emotions openly. I have also read articles stating that there are psychological differences between men and women that actually give many women a natural edge in the market. This is due to men's and women's different, typical behaviors. However, whether you are a male or female trader, simply knowing what the studies say can help you to identify weak points to improve.
My success in trading has been due to simply doing what I have been taught to do. It is incredible how many traders will say that a training program was no good, but when you look over their shoulders as they trade, they are actually not following the trading rules they were taught. I have heard it said by mentors many times about trading that if you are doing it right, it is boring. You are looking for the same trade setups over and over again. You are following the same rules every time. You are trading robotically, meaning that instead of trading emotionally, you are disciplined enough to mechanically look for the same types of trade setups on repeat, and when all of your trading criteria are there, you enter the trade without hesitation and without being concerned about the outcome. This is because, when you are following a good strategy, you already know that you are going to be profitable over the long run.
"If you have the dedication and persistence, you are more than equipped to succeed." Read our Q&A with Katherine Szewczyk here>>
What, in your opinion, are the essential elements of a good trading plan?
My trading plan is brief and basic, but very effective. It consists of my income and profit percentage goals, my career goals as a trader, my trading hours, and a list of the trading rules for my strategy. Although my trading rules are simple and I have them memorized, I still have them handwritten on an index card that I keep right next to me as I trade. This has the psychological effect of helping me to enjoy the flow of trading by reminding me that all I am doing is following my rules over and over again, depending on how many qualified trade setups I find during a given trading session.
Could you tell me more about how you developed your own trading strategy and how you taught yourself?
This is going to sound like heresy to a lot of traders because I have been told so many times that once I have found a mentor and a strategy, I am morally obligated to stick with that mentor and strategy exclusively, until death do us part. I have been told countless times that learning different strategies from different mentors is a high crime in the trading world. Maybe so. However, here is my viewpoint. If I would have stuck with only one mentor and strategy, being too afraid to learn and explore elsewhere, I would never have been able to create my own strategy that I feel completely comfortable with and that I enjoy. It's not enough to simply learn a strategy that works. You need a strategy that works and that also makes you feel comfortable in front of the charts. There are thousands of different ways to trade, and the combinations of tools and techniques might be close to infinite. So what is a new trader to do?
My advice is to find a mentor and strategy that at least somewhat resonates with you. Stick with it until you master it, and then write down what you like about the strategy and what you dislike. Make notes about what you believe could be missing from your trading education, and then fill in the missing pieces with additional education and practice. Remember, when you learn a trading strategy from a mentor, you are only learning about how the mentor prefers to trade.
You are not necessarily learning how you should trade. As a new trader, you need to discover what works for you. A trading strategy is as individual as a fingerprint. Being educated across a spectrum of trading principles, concepts, and strategies is the only way you will be able to create a strategy that is going to work for you for life. It is the trading equivalent to backpacking across Europe to find yourself.
"Women have a lot going on in their lives - and forex demands time to learn." Read our Q&A with Luyanda Shando here>>
In your opinion, what’s the main reason such a huge percentage of traders lose money?
I believe this is a popular, but completely false myth that unfortunately discourages people from getting into trading. Based on what I know about traders in groups and forums I have joined, the common belief that only 5% of traders are consistently profitable - that math just doesn't add up according to what I have actually observed. When it became popular to say that 95% of traders lose money, fail, etc., those statistics did not exclusively include traders.
A truer statement would be that 95% of gamblers fail in the markets. There is a monumental difference between a gambler and a trader, and lumping them into the same category to come up with a statistic to throw around is both inaccurate and unfair. A gambler is someone who dives into trading with a live account without making any effort to learn how to trade. Of course, the majority of gamblers are going to lose money, and the small percentage who win are simply favored by luck.
Trading has nothing to do with luck. A trader is someone who is educated about trading and who practices with a demo account until becoming consistently profitable before trading with real money. My experience has been that amongst the traders (not gamblers) I know, very few of them are on a path toward failure. The majority of them are either moderately or extremely successful. Gamblers get into the markets feeling stressed and they don't know if they are going to win or lose.
Traders don't trade based on certainty with regard to what is going to happen with a single trade. Instead, traders are taking trades based on having an edge in the markets with regard to probabilities. A trader doesn't care what happens with a single trade because he/she knows that the strategy being used is going to yield profits consistently based on mathematical probabilities. Not chance.
You often hear traders saying you need to put the time in to become a consistently profitable trader - but what does this mean to you exactly and where should a trader be putting in the most time?
I won't sugar-coat it. You are not going to fund a trading account and become an overnight millionaire based on a sudden whim to start trading. Unlike becoming a neurosurgeon or an Olympic athlete, trading is the one profession that people try to enter with no education or experience, and they really expect immediate riches. You have to have a passion for trading and be obsessed with it and addicted to it, or it's not going to work out for you. I have spent countless hours, often putting in 80-hour workweeks doing research, studying, and practicing on demo. My husband is annoyed sometimes, but I don't notice the hours flying by because I love trading so much. It's like getting paid big money to reach the highest level of a video game.
So I would say that researching, studying, and practicing on a demo account or simulator are the activities where you should be spending your time. And if this seems like drudgery, that is how you know that trading is not the right profession for you. It is completely okay for trading to not be for you. That realization is what opens the door to a different career where you will put in the time.
"Michelle Obama put it beautifully in one of her statements. She said “if you open the door to any opportunities, hold the door open for people to follow”." Read our Q&A with Emma Hawkins here>>
Is there any advice you would give to other women looking to start a career in trading?
Yes. As women, we have natural temperaments and behaviors that set us up for success in trading. If you want to work for yourself in a career that can't be destroyed by economic crises, pandemics, or just about anything else, trading is something to seriously consider. One last thought: success as a trader is entirely based on merit. There is no racial, gender, or age discrimination. There is no glass ceiling!