International Women's Day, a day that is honoured in most parts of developed societies to commemorate women for their achievements -- irrespective of race, colour, or creed. These achievements can, and should, never be taken for granted, as it hasn't been all that long since women earned the right to vote and were granted equal pay in Europe, by legislation. The glass ceiling still exists, but we are getting a lot closer to pushing through it now than anyone thought imaginable. These liberties that may seem so second nature to some, still seem an apparent dream to women in most parts of the developing world, where they still struggle for their basic human rights and innate desire to work and succeed.

Being born and raised in Pakistan, I aspired to break away from the norms and limitations my society afforded me and be educated and work in America -- a country that, despite its many shortcomings, is one that is truly based on meritocracy. Coming from a family of male investment bankers and traders, and given my genetic disposition to always negotiate fair value and source out an arbitrage for any goods consumed -- even those in the school canteen -- I knew trading was my calling.

After graduating with a degree in engineering, I started my career at UBS O'Connor, trading options and derivatives -- something I could not spell let alone pronounce at the time. I knew it was something mathematically exhilarating that led to discovering "free money" opportunities.

In the Pit

I was thrown on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) floor to trade S&P and single-stock listed options -- the pit, as we called it. The true trading floor based on open outcry. The sight of five hundred men screaming and shouting was extremely daunting at first. However, the pit was where everyone was equal, regardless of one's Ivy League or high-school dropout status. It was a place where those with the strongest gut and mindset survived. It was like any fraternity, after the proper hazing period and right attitude, you were allowed in. There were a lot of emotional hurdles to overcome, but at the end of the day, your P&L broke whatever walls were present.

After paying my dues for two years, I was taken under the wing of a Managing Director and became his right-hand portfolio assistant. All I wanted to do was learn, have my own business one day and empower others to grow. After UBS, I worked at various hedge funds and proprietary trading desks, managing and running portfolios.

Game Changer

It has been an incredible journey, working with some of the smartest people of our times. The hedge fund industry peaked in the early 2000s, and has since been downsizing as the industry matures and returns dwindle. The Global Financial Crisis changed everything, but even today, most market players do not accept that the game has changed -- and more so, the players.

Realizing this in 2012, I ventured out of the corporate world. After being on the buy-side for 15 years, I recognized the dearth of true, cross-asset arbitrage research at sell-side institutions -- most never take a view, when investors really need it the most. I launched MB Commodity Corner to advise hedge funds and sophisticated institutions where trading opportunities existed, always taking a view. Working in traditional hedge funds is like trading with a gun to your head: It just does not work, the model is broken -- investing needs latitude and low leverage. One must adapt to the new world order and evolve. 

It was also during this time that I saw a dire need for talent in wealth management, especially in the Middle East and Asia, where the middle class was growing, but more importantly where women were coming into more inheritance and sought honest advice. Through AWAAM Consulting, I aspire to help women reach their financial goals by advising them of the various investment opportunities available and how to manage their wealth accordingly.

Reaching to the heights of one's academic and career brilliance is a feat in and of itself. Investing for one's future is the second phase of the journey. Even today, given how far we have come, less than 30% of women think about their future financial needs and invest for the future. Most have spent years trying to earn that money, but then are too afraid to invest it, for fear of the unknown. There is a dire need for women, single or divorced, to learn how to be financially independent, take care of their children and secure their future.

AWAAM stands for "A Women's Alternative Asset Management" and in my language, it means a nation of people. At the end of the day, life is about choices -- and being allowed to make those choices. That privilege comes from being educated and financially independent.

Why should any individual be suppressed from achieving their dreams? We mask that by calling it "sheltering" or "protecting" them. Whereas in fact, human beings fear the unknown, they fear change. This is apparent going all the way back in history.

As Robert Frost wrote,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

To those brave and daring women helping clear our path, Happy International Women's Day!

Read the latest on markets and commodities from Maleeha on Real Money here.

Read the latest on markets and commodities from Maleeha on Real Money here.