Why Are There So Few Female Fund Managers?

VIDEO: Following International Women's Day, Morningstar's Ruli Viljoen looks at why there are still so few female fund managers in the industry and if there are signs of change

Holly Black 9 March, 2021 | 12:20PM
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Holly Black: Welcome to Morningstar. I'm Holly Black. With me is Ruli Viljoen. She is Head of Manager Selection at Morningstar. Hello.

Ruli Viljoen: Hi, Holly. Nice to see you.

Black: So, it's International Women's Day this week. We've been looking at how well or not well women are represented in the fund industry. Do you want to talk us through some of the key findings?

Viljoen: Absolutely. I think that the numbers are shockingly low. But I think what is interesting is, if one goes lower down within the team, you will see that at the analyst level, the numbers are typically much more balanced and you have a far more equal representation of both female and male analysts, and it's just as you move higher up to the position of actually the named manager on the portfolio that the numbers drop off seemingly quite alarmingly.

Black: So, that might indicate that they could be more balance in the future if those analysts and assistant managers start making their way up through the ranks, I would think.

Viljoen: Yes. I think one of the things we also need to think about is the progression as you move through your career. So, I think it's fair to say that as women typically get to around the age of 30, they start to potentially take a period of time off to have children and we have to think about how many of them are then encouraged to come back into the workforce once they've gone off and had their children and is there something that we as an industry could be doing to improve that situation.

Black: And if we think about signs of improvement, perhaps the last 12 months of home working could be the sea change, because it shows that you can work at home and that might make it easier to juggle work life with family life.

Viljoen: Yes. I think in a recent report that I read by Louise Keeling at RWC, she mentioned that up until now, technology has always enabled us to work from home, but culturally it's been unacceptable for people to spend significant amounts of time working from home and there was a perception that it was better to be seen in the office. If there's one thing the pandemic has shown us is that we have the technology and the ability to work successfully from home, and I think one of the things that we might see as we come out of this pandemic that it becomes culturally more acceptable for people to balance their work life between working in the office and working from home. And I would hope that that would be one of the clear changes that would encourage more women to come back into the workforce once they've gone off and had their children.

Black: And obviously, you spend a lot of your time speaking to fund managers. When you meet female fund managers, do they think it's a career that's suited to them? Is there a feeling that there should be more women in the industry?

Viljoen: Yes. I think that's another sort of perceptual change that we as an industry need to bring about and that is that up until now there's a perception, and in fact, as we've seen in the statistics, a reality that it's a very much male-dominated society, and I think things like the culture of the star fund manager and the fact that it's very much a – it's a male role potentially put certain females off from pursuing that as a career option, the feeling that you have to be at your desk 24/7 I think might put people off if they're looking for a more balanced lifestyle. But I think those are all perceptions and they're not the reality and it's a role that offers many, sort of, diverse opportunities. It has an incredible amount of flexibility available in the sense that it's a job that can be done easily from any location. And so, I think there's every opportunity for females to pursue successful careers in that space and hopefully as we see more analysts moving up the ranks into more senior roles, they too will start to see that there are opportunities for them to progress even further and eventually take on lead roles within funds.

Black: Ruli, thank you so much for your time. For Morningstar, I'm Holly Black.

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Holly Black  is Senior Editor, Morningstar.co.uk