Today I am going to pose a simple question that has been asked any number of times: Why are there so few women in senior positions in finance?
This question has come my way a lot. People have asked why we don’t have more women as guests on Masters in Business (we have had Sheila Bair, Liz Ann Sonders, Michelle Meyers, Dambisa Moyo and this weekend is Saru Jayaramen). But the data shows that there are far more males than female guests, and even though we have more women scheduled in the coming months, it’s still nowhere close to 50-50.
That sort of underrepresentation is common in senior positions at financial firms small and large alike. Some of this may be a legacy of what has not only been a male dominated society, but it probably also reflects an industry that is particularly resistant to change. (Disclosure: At my firm, two of the 13 employees are women, though neither is on our investment committee.)
Why is this so?
The rough answer is obvious — there are simply not a lot of women in senior positions in all of business, and finance to a great extent mirrors that reality. There are, however, signs of change for the better, which we will get to later.
Some data first.
A Morningstar study last year found that:
Less than 10% of all U.S. fund managers are women; women exclusively run about 2% of the industry’s assets and open-end funds. By contrast, men exclusively run about 74% of the industry’s assets and 78% of funds, with mixed-gender teams accounting for the balance.
The numbers are similarly lopsided for various niches of the financial industry: Harvard Business School research on private-equity, real-estate and venture-capital firms shows the percentage of female senior investment professionals is “stuck in the single digits.” But it’s much more than just the senior executives — women make up only 17 percent to 23 percent of all employees.