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Among Mutual Funds, It’s Still a Man’s World

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Despite the recovery of global financial markets since the crisis of 2007-2008, there has been little change in the percentage of women managing mutual funds. According to a newly released study from Morningstar on mutual funds across 56 countries, women accounted for about one in five portfolio managers in 2008, and they still do today.

“The fund industry as a whole is not becoming more gender-inclusive,” the study concludes.

That’s certainly true for the U.S., where 10% of fund managers are women – far fewer than in Singapore (30%), Portugal (28%), Spain (26%) and Hong Kong (26%).

Among the 28 biggest fund markets, the U.S. ranks among the bottom five for the percentage of female fund managers. Only Germany, Brazil, India and Poland place lower. Moreover, the percentage of female fund managers in the U.S. and Germany are lower today – 10% and 9%, respectively — than they were in 2008 — 11% and 12%, respectively.

“In most geographic regions, after controlling for all other factors, women had higher likelihoods of managing equity or allocation funds in January 2008 than they do today,” the study notes. That’s not the case with fixed income funds, where they “have made modest gains,” according to Morningstar. But “women are still far less likely to manage a fixed income fund than men, regardless of time period or country.”

The Morningstar study doesn’t examine why there are still so few female fund managers but references previous research suggesting that “the financial industry may be less tolerant of career interruptions, which are more typical for women, or may be less conducive to balancing career and family;” that “women in the financial services find a lack of support at midcareer, which may prompt them to leave the industry” before being named a portfolio manager.

Morningstar also cites research referencing “a weak talent pipeline for fund managers as measured by masters of business administration enrollment and CFA charterholders” but, according to the Morningstar study, female fund managers are more likely to be chartered financial analysts than their male counterparts.

Despite the overall underrepresentation of women in the ranks of mutual fund managers, Morningstar found that certain types of funds offer women better odds of becoming fund managers, including:

Socially Responsible Funds.

If the fund has a socially responsible investing mandate, women are 24% more likely than their male peers to manage it, but that advantage is decreasing as more men are named managers in this increasingly hot investment area, according to Morningstar.

Passive Funds and Funds of Funds

Women are also more likely to manage a passive fund or a fund of funds rather than a traditional fund that buys and sells individual securities.

The odds of a woman managing a passive fund over an active fund in the same asset class is 36% higher, according to Morningstar. Among funds of funds, allocation offerings offer the best odds for a woman becoming a portfolio manager.

Funds Sponsored by Larger Firms

“The best chance of finding an equity fund run by a woman is at the largest equity firms,” according to Morningstar. “The largest firms provide more opportunities to women in the industry, not only because of the portion of managers that are women but also due to the sheer volume of positions.”

It found that the percentage of female equity fund managers at American Funds, Fidelity Investments, Franklin Templeton, T. Rowe Price, and Vanguard, for example, exceeded the industry average at each firm but remained low, ranging between 13.8% and 9.5%.

But Aberdeen Asset Management PLC bested all five of those funds in terms of female fund managers. As of December 2015, women accounted for 31.2% of its equity portfolio managers. Its equity assets land it in the top 5% of all equity companies studied by Morningstar.

Team-Managed Funds

Women are more likely to manage funds as part of a team rather than as a solo manager.Fortunately for women, team-managed funds are in vogue,” according to Morningstar. When the study began in January 2008, team-managed funds accounted for 39.7% of funds. By December 2015, that percentage rose to 45.1%.

Need for More Research

Morningstar concluded its study noting the need for more research, including research into why someone enters and leaves the fund industry and research into the work of fund managers by asset class. In addition, it suggests research into the differences in compensation and performance between female and male portfolio managers.

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