Finance

Christopher Langner is a markets columnist for Bloomberg Gadfly. He previously covered corporate finance for Bloomberg News, and has written for Reuters/IFR, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and Mergermarket.

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.

Wall of Silence
For an industry that depends on disclosure, asset managers are very cagey about gender diversity
Source: Bloomberg

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.

Selective Disclosure
Listed money managers give shareholders less information about their environmental and social governance than some of the industries often associated with such issues
Source: Bloomberg
* Values represent median score for the entire industry across the globe.

Even at the few companies that do report gender diversity, their score is far from perfect. 

Subpar
Among the few asset managers that disclose diversity figures the numbers are hardly flattering
Source: Bloomberg
* Median for the industry where data is available

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.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Christopher Langner in Singapore at clangner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Matthew Brooker at mbrooker1@bloomberg.net