According to an article in the Wall Street Journal and research from Morningstar Inc. seven percent of investment managers in the $15 trillion mutual-fund industry in 2015 were female. This is down from 10 percent in 2009.
Seven percent. Think about it. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 34 percent of physicians in the U.S. are women. The American Bar Association also reports that 34 percent of its lawyer members are women. There is clearly work to be done in these and other fields to increase the number of women, but the fact that seven percent of investment managers are women is inexcusable.
The problem with such sparse female representation in asset management is multi-faceted.
- Research from Morningstar Inc. showed that while the performance of exclusively women-run funds rivals that of men-run funds mixed-gender investment teams provided the best results.
- More women making investment decisions will help diversify the companies that receive venture capital funding. My colleague at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School Dr. John Paglia recently wrote about how diverse investment boards are more likely to invest in diverse companies.
- More women in asset management will help encourage companies to add more women to their board of directors. Recently, State Street Global Advisors, which oversees more than $2.5 trillion in assets, put its money where its mouth is by “voting against the re-election of directors at 400 companies this year on grounds they failed to take steps to add women to their boards.”
What we can do to change this?
- Support non-profit organizations such as Girls Who Invest which is working to increase the number of women in portfolio management and asset management leadership. Girls Who Invest is focusing on education, industry outreach, accessibility and career placement to achieve its goal of having 30 percent of the world’s investable capital managed by women by 2030.
- On the academic side – where I am – we can make sure that more women are exposed to asset management through internships and connecting them with mentors in that field. This includes career education so that women have a better sense of what asset management jobs are available and what skills are needed to get those jobs and be successful. We can also educate young women and girls about these careers and work to increase interest at young age like many of the STEM efforts.
- Investment firms can do a better job recruiting women candidates. This means having a strong presence in the MBA recruiting process as well as encouraging women who are working in the industry to serve as mentors and as an entry point for women who want to work in the field.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one silver bullet to solve this problem. But the benefits of chipping away at this gender gap are enormous. Raising visibility of the profession and job opportunities, encouraging and empowering women, and changing the corporate culture so that women are sought out are all key parts of solving this pervasive problem.
Dr. Bernice Ledbetter is Practitioner Faculty of Organizational Theory and Management at Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management where she chairs the M.S. in Management and Leadership degree program. Her research and teaching interests focus on values-based leadership, peace leadership, and gender. Dr. Ledbetter founded the Pepperdine Center for Women in Leadership to empower and advance women in the workplace.