It is no secret that the representation of women working in many areas of financial services is dismal. Less than 2% of the world’s capital is invested by women, including less than 10% of mutual fund managers in the U.S., according to Morningstar. Broadening the scope to hedge funds and other asset management firms, the number of female portfolio managers in the U.S. has actually decreased for each of the past seven years, dropping from 10% to 7% in that time.
While many people in the industry acknowledge the gender-gap problem of a shortage of women, most don’t progress past talking or writing about it.
Now a nonprofit organization led by female Wall Street executives is taking action to provide education and networking opportunities, as well as internship placements, for young women interested in a career in asset management.
Former T. Rowe Price and Fidelity executive – and the ex-chief investment officer of NYC Retirement Systems – Seema Hingorani is the founder and chair of Girls Who Invest. She tapped Kathleen Powers Dunlap, the ex-director of institutional sales at Alliance Bernstein and a former managing director at Barclays, to be the nonprofit organization’s CEO.
“We asked ourselves why more high-potential women are not considering a career in asset management, and a lot of it is just plain lack of awareness – the whole idea of money management being a fun, impactful job is not on their radar,” Dunlap says. “Negative perceptions of the industry make many girls think that the good-old-boy network is still thriving.
“High-potential women can be anything they want, and they don’t want to enter an industry where they feel the deck is stacked against them,” she said. “Many students don’t understand the difference between asset management and investment banking, or the fact that stewardship of money is important.
“Movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and Money Monster and TV shows like Billions don’t paint a great picture – what women would want to work in that type of environment?”
High-potential women want jobs that are intellectually stimulating, impactful and meaningful, but the asset management industry has been very slow to embrace the values of younger generations, Dunlap says.
“The industry has failed to address those trends,” she says. “The demand side is not a problem – fund executives are saying ‘We want women, we need to have to have women, and we’re trying to hire them, but we’re not seeing the resumes,’ and many seem almost resigned to that fact.
“Well, we’re going to give you the resumes – we’ll find the candidates and you’ll get a tax deduction to boot.”
Backing from big-name firms
To further its mission of spreading the word about why young female professionals should pursue careers in asset management and offering advice for young women on how they can break into the industry, Girls Who Invest has partnered with many heavy-hitters across the industry. Sponsors include Bank of America, CALSTRS, Morgan Stanley, Prudential, State Street, T. Rowe Price, BlackRock, Blackstone, the CFA Institute, Charles Schwab, Citadel, Dodge & Cox, GMO, KKR, New York Life, Oaktree Capital, PNC Bank and Wellington Management.
The core initiative is the 10-week summer program, which includes a four-week boot camp in residence at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, where the participants are taught by business school professors.
“Our girls are drinking water from the fire hose in business and financial matters,” Dunlap says. “We’re bringing in practitioners from the industry every single day – people anywhere from four to 40 years into their career – and connecting the academics to the real-world jobs and the plethora of careers they can choose from across pension funds, foundations, endowments, sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, private wealth, global equities, private equity and venture capital.”
The participants get training on Bloomberg Terminals and are tasked with writing a stock analyst report, which they present to a committee. The program includes site visits to asset management firms and to the companies that they will be analyzing.
Crucial summer internship before senior year
The sponsor firms have offered six-week paid internships to the young women selected to participate in the Girls Who Invest program. At the end of the four-week educational session, participants go directly from Wharton to various locations across the U.S., Canada and U.K. to start their internship.
“The common denominator of internships is that they are sitting on an investment team in private equity, venture capital, hedge funds or large multi-asset-class managers,” Dunlap says. “A full third of internships are in alternatives, where lack of women is most pronounced.”
Last month Girls Who Invest kicked-off its second annual Summer Intensive Program, doubling last year’s core program from 30 to 60 scholars. The diverse 2017 Summer Intensive Program class hails from seven countries, 18 states and 33 colleges.
To educate and encourage more young women to pursue careers in asset management, this year Girls Who Invest admitted an additional 303 college-aged women to pilot the Girls Who Invest Online Learners Program. Through new partnerships with Coursera, an online education platform, and the CFA Institute, Girls Who Invest will provide hundreds of additional qualified young women with access to resources that they need to secure positions in asset management, including a selection of online courses in finance, management and leadership.
One skill key to success in asset management is financial modeling. Girls Who Invest provides its scholars and online learners with access to Wharton’s Business and Financial Modeling specialization, a sequence of multiple courses on Coursera, concluding in a Capstone project. Graduates will receive a joint certificate from Wharton and Coursera after completing the online program. Girls Who Invest also allows participants to select from an additional 17 courses available through Coursera.
Through the CFA Institute Investment Foundationstm Program, Girls Who Invest will give online learners access to a education certificate program to give their candidacy as job applicants a boost. The Investment Foundations course of study conveys investment industry knowledge to help young women gain a more complete understanding of the financial landscape.
The Girls Who Invest offers program graduates ongoing support such as resume reviews and mock interviews during their final year of college when they are looking to line up a full-time job for after they graduate.
“These women are going to be successful – these women are infinitely capable, so it’s an awareness issue,” Dunlap says. “They can be anything they want, so we’re trying to show them that the stewardship of capital is important and meaningful work, and not only is it really interesting work but it’s also important, which is a big wake-up call.
“Then they start getting excited about a career in asset management,” she says.
Photo courtesy of Girls Who Invest