There is another major social group within every drow society that offers those who were born male–or of other lesser social standing–hope and something to strive towards: The Merchant Clans. Though the ruling priestesses within Lolthian society outwardly repudiate the worth of such Clans, no one can truly deny that they are vital to the survival of the drow. It’s another way to live but they won’t obtain any political power - or at least no direct influence. Merchant clans are organized groups of merchants or traders travelling between the Underdark and the surface trading goods. They aren’t able to vote on any decisions felt by the drow houses but they can control various trade routes and the supply of some goods not available elsewere in the Underdark - trying to achieve their goals this way.
Merchant clans vary in organization. They are usually headed by an “inner ring” or council of the most experienced and/or wealthy merchant members, and hence are usually led by males (the “demeaning” and dangerous occupation of trading with outsiders is an almost exclusively male one). The membership of the inner ring of a given merchant clan consists primarily of male wizards who have either passed or evaded The Test. Removed as they are from drow society at large, the merchant clans have no compunction about dealing with the surface world and other Underdark societies. In fact, a great number of the “second ring”, or managers, are non-drow of various races.
The lowest rank in the merchant clan, the “assets”, are nearly all non-drow. These are the laborers and soldiery of the merchant house. Together, the merchant clans form the trade links with the outside world that enables the Noble Houses to survive.