Fund Managers Need to Talk About Women
For those in finance, when was the last time you met a woman who was managing a portfolio? There are a few, yes, but how many? A straight answer would be difficult because asset managers don't like to talk about it.
BlackRock, the largest publicly traded asset manager by market value, agreed to share data for the first time on how many women it employs at a senior level, the Financial Times reported Monday. The newspaper asked the 15 biggest standalone asset managers to unveil such information; six companies declined. For an industry that depends on disclosure to maintain public trust, that's a conspicuous lack of openness. Unfortunately, it's also the norm, as Bloomberg data show.
Overall, the industry scores very low in how upfront it is about gender and environmental issues. The median Bloomberg environmental and social governance disclosure score for listed asset managers worldwide is 15.4, on a scale where 0.1 is the worst and 100 the best. That's below the steel industry's 17 or the 17.8 of global coal miners, male-dominated industries in which attitudes might be expected to be even more recalcitrant.
Even at the few companies that do report gender diversity, their score is far from perfect.
Sure, asset managers can claim that women are underrepresented in finance in general, a legacy of the industry's traditional male dominance and cultural disincentives to female participation. Furthermore, many of the people who end up in top jobs come from trading desks, an area where women employees are even scarcer.
That doesn't justify the lack of disclosure. It's time shareholders started asking the question of these companies because the continued lack of gender diversity means they are forgoing the opportunity to draw on a huge pool of potential talent. Few industries would benefit as much from having different ideas, approaches to life, views of the world and diverse opinions as money management. As any psychologist will tell you, the first step to dealing with any issue is to talk about it.
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