Special Report: Gender Gap

Trade groups take steps to bring more women into money management

Recognizing the need to attract more women into asset management, a number of industry groups are launching efforts to tackle the problem.

Among the new initiatives:

  • The CFA Institute and its steering committee on diversity, which includes the $351.5 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, and the $222.5 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, are conducting about six round tables with money managers to discuss best practices in diversity and inclusion with the goal of bringing more women into the money management industry. The institute plans to release its findings in September, said Rebecca Fender, Charlottesville, Va.-based head of the Future of Finance initiative at CFA Institute;
  • The American Investment Council, a Washington-based private equity trade group, and the National Association of Investment Companies have a joint Private Equity Women's Initiative that released a set of best practices aimed at increasing the recruitment and retention of women at private equity firms; and
  • The Washington-based trade group National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts in June launched a program —the Dividends Through Diversity Initiative — to promote the recruitment, inclusion and advancement of women in REITs and the broader commercial real estate industry. Short-term goals for the initiative include education and research on diversity, a junior associate program for REITs and other NAREIT members, and a program to connect senior NAREIT female members who are interested in joining a REIT's board with search firms.

Ms. Fender said the CFA Institute noticed that women made up only 34% of the individuals worldwide who sat for the June CFA exam, a number that was pushed up by women in China. In China, 52% of those who sat for the exam were women. The CFA designation is one of the routes into the money management industry, but only a tiny minority —18% —of CFA charterholders are women, CFA Institute figures show.

Even those women who are CFA charterholders more often have jobs that support the investment management teams rather than work in investment management, according to a 2016 survey of CFA members.

"Only 18% of members are women ... and that gets your attention," Ms. Fender said.

While the number of women taking the CFA exam in June ticked up from 32% the year before, it is a slow process, Ms. Fender said.

"The CFA is an objective measure of competence and credibility ... and can help women overcome stereotypes," she said.

Ms. Fender also co-leads a volunteer group she helped start in 2015, the Women in Investment Management Initiative, also aimed at increasing the number of women working in money management.

"One way to attract more women into the industry ... is to encourage them to take the CFA exam," Ms. Fender said. "We started a new access scholarship for women who would not be able to pursue the exam. We had 1,200 people who applied and awarded 500 so far in the first year."