Why are there so few Females in the fund management industry? Given half the university population are women, is there a reason so few choose this as a career?
At LGT Vestra we have an open door policy to meeting fund managers. Any number of our investment managers can attend meetings; listen to the latest update, question and challenge current thinking. It is a great opportunity to hear from the people to whom we entrust our client's money.
We have a diversified list of 130 fund management strategies on our approved fund list. Of these, less than 10% are managed by females. 10% who are lead or assistant manager. What a woeful figure.
At a recent meeting of the action group Senior Women in Fund Management, (SWFM), it was noted that the proportion of lead female fund managers is lower today, than it was 20 years ago. Why is this so? What has changed?
The answer was perhaps evident at a careers event recently organised by recruitment firm, Sapphire Partners, hosted by M&G CEO Anne Richards. Rather encouragingly, the event was heavily oversubscribed; it was an interactive session with several female fund managers speaking about their experiences. However, the fundamental issue, I believe, stems from the very real knowledge gap; many of the questions from the young women present (both pre and post grad level) were about the basics of fund management. In short, the industry has much to do to advocate and educate fund management as a career option. Very few women even know this is a career.
Another factor could be apprehension. Numbers show that fewer women choose to study STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) subjects at school and therefore university. In turn, those that do, tend to go on to study veterinary or medical sciences. However, if one looks at the subjects studied by the current 130 managers on the LGT Vestra approved fund list, less than half studied a STEM subject at university. It is not what you read but how you apply what you read. Of course, numeracy helps, but it is not a precondition to success.
It is clear that the industry (men and women) need to start visiting schools and universities, to ignite interest and to share career experiences.
In addition to the aforementioned factors, there is the high and problematic rate of mid-career attrition. We lose many talented women in financial services, just as they are beginning to harvest their skill sets. Leaving to raise a family, change career, focus etc. Often it is because they cannot see career progression. Here in lies the rub. If those women who are mid-career depart, there are fewer rising to the top, fewer mentors, fewer role models, fewer to advocate for the industry. Equally, this leads to subconscious bias. If there are not many women around in lead roles, those left (mostly men) often decide to hire those just like them.
Thus the third action step is to encourage leavers to return, and to encourage others mid-career in other industries (e.g. consultancy, management consulting) that fund management is an attractive career to switch to. Several of the larger fund management groups are introducing returnship programs to harness this group of lost or latent resource.
Why does it matter at all? Who cares? Women often bring a different perspective. Different management styles help to diversify risk. But it is simpler than this. Surely, there should be a greater representation of half of the intellectual capital coming out of our universities. At every level of the fund management industry.