Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Leg the Spread

Leg The Spread opens with a recounting of the tragic tale of Anne McKenzie, a former commodities trader. The story was offered to author Cari Lynn as a subtle warning that the trading environment she was entering was hostile and unforgiving, that fortunes were made and lost in split seconds regardless of who you are. Lynn sets this story as a warning to the reader as well to never forget that there are real people and real lives impacted by those decisive split seconds. This message hits hard and is difficult to forget when navigating through Lynn’s own first-hand trading experiences that ground her insightful debut effort.

Lynn’s experiences come from working in the big, volatile world of finance as a clerk for The Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Merc, as it is known, is a rough and tumble place where women are (for the most part) outsiders. This ‘old Boys Club’ however as been slowly transforming thanks to the efforts of dedicated women like Lynn who mercilessly strive daily to blow through the sexism and hammer out their rightful place in this greedy ‘take no prisoners’ society.

Lynn introduces the reader to a few women like Alice, Alexis, and Bev who have made the Merc their territory in order to put a human face on the one-dimensional activities that take place there. Numerous themes emerge from their stories, the most resonant being that a woman’s success as a trader is rarely measured simply in terms of how much money they make or the deals they broker (even though most of the women are indeed in it for the money, just like men). There are the double standards and harassment resulting from the pressure to be a ‘woman’ and yet be a ‘man’ at the same time that always taints a female trader’s successes and failures.

Leg The Spread (a term that refers to safeguarding your market position) is an engaging and involving book mainly because of the women Lynn brings forward. Their stories are inspiring and provide the reader with solid examples of how to stand up for yourself and not be intimidated by those who only want to see you fail. Although there are no warm and fuzzy happy endings here, the reader is still left with a wealth of knowledge about how the Merc works and a very strong understanding that for as far as we women have come, there is still much distance to go.

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