In a world which is slowly making a shift towards gender equality and protecting women’s rights, the money-management industry still sees poor female misrepresentation at senior levels. Specifically, in the areas of hedge fund management, private equity and venture capital.
However, a recent study by the HFRX Women Index showed that hedge funds run by women have outperformed the industry average by 20% in the last decade. What more, they have generated returns two times higher than their male counterparts in the last year itself. This strong performance comes even despite women being under-represented across the hedge fund and wider asset management industry, piling more pressure onto a male-dominated sector to recruit more female portfolio managers.
So it is safe to assume that #timesup and tables are slowly turning. Especially with well-known female hedge fund managers leading the movement, like Leda Braga, founder of $8bn firm Systematica, Sarah Dahan , BlueMountain Capital Management lead portfolio manager, and Grace Gu, former Graham Capital Management fund manager, now chief investment officer of Dracaena Capital Management.
But why is there such a wide gap between the genders in this industry? Reasons are many, varying between biases to clique hiring to weaker professional networks for women. Business Insider republished one of their articles last year, describing first-hand accounts of women in the hedge fund industry on their experiences climbing up the ranks.
Some spoke of their investment ideas not being heard or valued until a man pitched them, while others spoke of subtle sexism, like being the only ones asked to pour the coffee. One recounted a man telling her he didn’t think she had the stamina while another had her resume crumpled, receiving the comment “we don’t hire girls because they cry”.
But some say that it’s an advantage to be the only woman in the room at times. Replacing the perception that someone is not listening to your idea because you are a woman with the perception that they are just not listening to you, is a start to exuding a more positive front which will encourage others (men, in this case) to respond positively as well. Like one female hedge fund partner says, “It’s easy to feel defensive about it. That’s the worst thing you can be in this business. It’s a forward, offensive business and culture.”
Being a woman in the competitive hedge fund industry makes one wonder how they manage their work-life balance. Especially those women who have kids to care for and families to run. Deepali Vyas, Head of Global Markets and Hedge Funds Practice at Heidrick & Struggles, says in a SheThePeople.TV interview - ““I will not lie – it is tough to achieve and it often ebbs and flows; however, the weekends are completely dedicated to myself and the family. I do not look at my phone or email and make sure that I create those boundaries so that I have a consistent balance between my professional and personal life.”
Women are as good at managing money as men. Because in the end – why should it be otherwise? Surely, the time has come for the hedge fund management industry to integrate fully with the 21st century and strive for greater diversity at the top.
Chitra Baskar, COO,Viteos says “ We have identified this as an area to speak out and be a change agent and have initiated efforts to bring together women in hedge funds and getting the collective group to articulate and address the challenges faced by them in the industry. Specifically, we have a significant thrust towards gender diversity and equality and continuously looking to increase the women in its operations at various levels. In both internal and external forums, Viteos encourages women to articulate on challenges in the industry such that collectively we can address them to make this a great place for everyone. While there is lot of ground to cover, our decade of experience of gender neutral practices and work culture have only been a win-win for all stakeholders”.