Where Are All The Female Investors?

The statistics aren't pretty.
Where Are All The Female Investors?
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Chief Investment Officer at Scenic Advisement
5 min read
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As a professional female investor for the lion's share of my career, I never really realized that there weren't more of me out there. After all, I'd been hired as an institutional equity portfolio manager by a female manager who hired a fair share of women for her team. Not to mention that earlier in my career I had worked in a woman-owned wealth management shop. With such strong role models, even in a time before women's and diversity initiatives made the headlines (and unfortunately before #MeToo was a thing), I knew firsthand what a good career being an investor could be for a woman.

Related: The Lesser-Known Career Barriers That Women Face

As I began to see outside my own world, I was shocked when I realized that the investment industry and the sectors it represents is very much dominated by men. Looking at headline statistics, for example, women own only 5 percent of tech startups, women hold just 11 percent of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies, only 7 percent of partners at top 100 venture capital firms are women and it's a well-documented fact that female founders receive less funding than their male counterparts. In 2016, for example, $58.2 billion worth of VC money went to companies with all-male founders. But last year, women got just $1.46 billion in VC money.

Why aren't there more female investors pressing for progress?

For one, historically, across many cultures, women were often viewed as second-class citizens. In China, for example, baby girls were drowned in favor of baby boys and girls who did survive were often not allowed to pursue higher education. In other parts of the world, women didn't have the right to vote until the late 19th century, when Finland, Iceland, Sweden, parts of Australia and the western United States were finally given limited rights. Kathrine Switzer ran the 1967 Boston Marathon after being told by her coach that a marathon was too far to run for a "fragile woman." It wasn't until 1972 that women were officially allowed to run.

Today, over 150 countries have at least one law that treats women and men differently (such as having their testimony carry the same evidentiary weight in court, applying for a passport or conferring citizenship to their children). For generations, women all over the globe faced social and cultural stigmas for working outside the home and wanting anything other than a family. The patriarchal society is one that is ingrained deeply in our being.

Related: Women, It's Time to Take Control

So, is it any surprise that when it comes to something as important as finances, investments or money, women have not been immediately welcomed into the formal management of it? Preqin, a research organization, reported that women represent only 14 percent of investment professionals within private equity in the U.K. and that only 6 percent of them are classified as senior investment professionals.

In the U.K. last year, female fund manager bonuses were up to 70 percent below male bonuses. In the U.S., women run fewer than 10 percent of mutual funds, though it is higher in Singapore and Hong Kong (still only 26 percent to 30 percent). Only nine female investors claimed spots on this year's "Midas List" annual ranking of VCs, a rather paltry record, albeit an increase from six in 2017.

The research clearly paints the investment sector as male-dominated. It's hard to understand why when women make up half of the population and often manage the family budgets, as they're the closest to the family and know what its needs are, they outlive men and they are more than likely to be the ones teaching their children about money. More frequently they are becoming the breadwinner of the family. Despite all this, women remain underrepresented as investors.

Certain asset classes, like equities, have long been perceived as high risk, and the domain of "male" investors, whereas the "boring" ones like fixed income, have seen more females. I know this firsthand -- and that, where there have been women role models, there has been more hiring of females and more women-led teams. The World Economic Forum reported on the significant role that women leaders play in driving overall economic equity and participation. As long as women continue to be under-represented or ignored in this industry, this could deter future generations from entering it.

Related: An All-Female Board Needs to Be as Unremarkable as an All-Male One

Initiatives such as Founders for Change are tackling this issue head-on by "bringing together venture-backed founders who are dedicated to improving inclusion within their companies and desire greater diversity at the highest levels of VC firms." We have now started to see the creation of women-only investment companies. Shatter Fund is a great example as it exclusively invests in disruptive technology companies led by female entrepreneurs. Backstage Capital earlier this year launched a fund targeted exclusively black, LGBTQ, Hispanic and women founders.

First Round Capital benchmarked male versus female founder performance over a 10-year period and demonstrated that women outperform their all-male peers by 63 percent. A comprehensive study by UNSW business school tracked a 17-year period in the Finnish financial markets that matched daily trades by male and female individual investors and found that female investors returned a compound gain of $276 million over the period, representing a rate of return of 21.44 percent.

These results are creating a pressure for progress. But, we need more visibility of these successes, initiatives and female role models. In a world where money talks, let's change the conversation and make it one of equal representation, not just in the investment sector but across all industries.

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