Hollywood, it is often said, is tough on women. When Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for The Hurt Locker in 2010, she became the first-ever female director since 1929 – the inaugural year of the Academy Awards – to win this coveted award. Yet Hollywood is hardly an outlier. There’s another high profile, big money industry where women have been historically underrepresented. In the upper echelons of financial management and investment services, female workers have long been notoriously scarce.
A Grim Picture
Studies conducted by the Harvard Business School paint a grim picture: among senior roles in venture capital and private equity, women held just 9% and 6% of the positions, respectively. Hedge funds bring that number to lower depths: women occupied only 3% of senior management roles. When it comes to balancing gender equality, finance has simply with not kept pace with many other professional fields, such as law, academia, and medicine. That’s despite the fact that women now receive the majority of college degrees in the United States across every category, from bachelor’s degrees to doctorates. Yet while university classrooms and campus walkways are populated with more women than men, finance and business degrees remain the province of male students largely.
From School to Work
According to figures published by Glassdoor, men accounted for 61.5 percent of degrees in finance. And such numbers do not seem to be improving. Could low job satisfaction in the field play a role? A 2013 Mergis Group Women in Finance survey indicated that less than half of women in the fields of accounting and finance are satisfied with their careers. When asked to compare obstacles they face at work, nearly three-quarters of female respondents reported facing a different set than their male colleagues.
A Bold Plan
Declining numbers among women studying finance paired with low job satisfaction reports demand a creative solution to combat an acute problem. Fortunately, there may be a game-changer in the horizon: Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit organization founded with an ambitious mission that by 2030, 30% of the world’s capital will be managed by women.
The visionary behind “30 by 30” is no stranger to the boys’ club of finance herself. Before making the plunge into the nonprofit world, hedge fund industry veteran Seema Hingorani managed $150 billion in pension funds as interim CIO of New York City’s Bureau of Asset Management. That experience put her in touch with scores of investment management teams who were keen to be granted New York City contracts. Yet Hingorani was puzzled by the gender makeup of the firms courting her: why weren’t there more women in the ranks?
In order to achieve the organization’s mission, Girls Who Invest plans to motivate, interest, and inspire young women to join the investment management and greater financial services field. And Hingorani is hardly alone in her concern or her vision. After proposing the idea behind the organization in a Bloomberg column, she received countless emails across the business world – from industry insiders to college professors and high school principals – which expressed interest in supporting the organization.
How it Works
Girls Who Invest will launch with a summer pilot program. In a four-week intensive training program, rising college sophomores and juniors will study core finance, markets, and asset management concepts under the tutelage of business school professors. The training program will be supplemented by bringing in a range of speakers across the finance industry.
The Bottom Line
According to Hingorani, women make less than 10% of the world’s investable capital. By offering young women a training program that culminates in a resume-friendly certificate, Hingorani predicts that she can pave the way towards recruiters being able to identify promising women candidates in the field easily. The New York-based program is just the beginning. Look for sites to open up in Chicago and Los Angeles within the next couple of years.