Women made up about 14% of the 25,000 portfolio managers globally that run fixed-income, equity, and asset-allocation mutual and exchange-traded funds as of Dec. 31, unchanged from 2000, according to
“Our industry hasn’t changed that much,” says Zhang, who thought the numbers were low back in 2003. “I was managing a multi-asset mutual fund at one point, and I had over $2 billion under my management. I just saw there were very few women analysts and even fewer portfolio managers.” Today, after a career at asset managers including the giant
The statistics haven’t budged despite years of initiatives to
“You would have hoped that maybe all the initiatives put in place five or six or so years ago would have started to be having some effect,” says Madison Sargis, associate director of Morningstar’s quantitative research team. “We are working to get more information on the career path—from analyst to fund manager—to see where it all is falling out.”
Companies’ efforts to increase diversity often end up recycling and further stretching the few women who make it into the industry. The same female managers are being continually tapped to manage funds, in a way that mirrors the tactics of corporations trying to diversify boards through a limited pool of familiar executives. (That practice has come to be known as overboarding.)
Lower down the ranks, women still face some well-known obstacles. It typically takes years to climb the career ladder to fund manager, and setbacks are more common for women, who may take breaks to have children. There’s also plenty of straightforward bias in the industry, says Zhang. “Women analysts are trusted to make suggestions, but not trusted enough to pull the trigger for the portfolio,” she says.
Women have often made initial strides by getting into newer parts of the industry. Yet those gains may not hold up when a product or sector becomes hotter. In index funds, the share of distinct female managers globally has fallen to about 14.7% from 15.8% in 2000.
One of the best-known
The biggest female-led fund is Vanguard Health Care Fund, with $49 billion in assets as of Dec. 31. It’s run by
Hynes sees things steadily improving. “For the first 20 years I’d be in meetings and most of the people were men, from company management to sell-side analysts to buy-side analysts,” Hynes says. “That began to change only about 15 years ago, when we saw more women in research roles. So I would expect to see more female portfolio managers in the future, even if it’s not showing in the data yet.”
Hynes credits Wellington’s veteran health-care fund manager
There may also be a problem at the start of the career pipeline: A widespread perception that asset-management requires a mostly quantitative background. Among college entrants, men are more likely than women to earn degrees in science, technology engineering or math. Yet men and women alike with liberal arts degrees have long succeeded in asset management.
To help more women make the leap into portfolio management, Hynes says the industry needs more female role models. And there has to be a well-planned, deliberate effort to bring women in. “I have had a successful career, thanks to a great firm and mentor, but it was not deliberate,” she says.
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