Which asset classes are most favoured by female managers?

future im/pact gender diversity gender equality recruitment

21 June 2024
| By Jasmine Siljic |
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While gender parity in Australian investment teams is slowly improving, the proportion of female portfolio managers has seen a decrease since 2017.

Future IM/Pact is an industry initiative seeking to attract more diverse talent into the investment teams of fund managers and superannuation funds.

New research conducted by the industry initiative incorporated three years of workforce data from 22 investment firms and 961 employees tracking appointments, promotions, and exit rates for male and female investors at all levels.

This included Australian Retirement Trust, Australian Ethical, UniSuper, Munro Partners, Colonial First State, and Platinum Asset Management.

The report revealed a “disappointing” setback in the composition of women in portfolio management roles. The number of female portfolio managers has declined from 23 per cent in 2017 to 19 per cent in 2024.

Some 63 per cent of all appointments and 67 per cent of promotions are men.

These findings echo a diversity report from the Financial Services Council last year that found only 18 per cent of portfolio managers are female.

Future IM/Pact examined the gender breakdown of female and male portfolio managers by asset class, with private equity and infrastructure seeing the highest percentage of female managers followed by real estate.

On the other hand, domestic and global equities see the lowest percentage.

“The portfolio manager level is the most moribund with three men for every one woman appointed at this level and four men for every one woman promoted,” the report said.

Proportion of female portfolio managers
Asset class Females (%)  Males (%) 
Private equity 32 68
Infrastructure 31 69
Real estate 30 70
Multi-asset 29 71
Debt 28 72
Fixed income 26 74
Domestic equities   22 78
Global equities 19 81

Source: Future IM/Pact, June 2024

Examining the findings, Future IM/Pact said: “We often hear women love the tangible nature of real estate and infrastructure, and are fascinated by the business dynamics and close contact with owners that comes with private equity roles, despite the challenges that come with transaction-intense periods.

“Not that women in listed markets don’t love their roles – they do! However, the demand of being always on and international travel expectations can make these roles more challenging for women who also have primary care responsibilities.”

Projections show it will take another five years for this figure to return above the 2017 percentage and 19 years for it to reach gender parity.

“Our projections indicate that within five years, women will still only account for 24 per cent of portfolio managers, if we continue current efforts. At this rate, it will take 19 years (2042) for us to hit gender parity at this crucial level.”

To meet and surpass projections, Future IM/Pact urged targeted support for women looking to enter portfolio manager positions. This includes building confidence and career conviction, as well as driving a pipeline of female talent.

“Targeted support for women aspiring to these roles is key to ensure we don’t just attract female talent into the industry at the lower levels, but help women grow and flourish into senior positions,” commented Yolanda Beattie, founder of Future IM/Pact.

Just one-third of investment firms currently offer internships and graduate programs, underscoring an area for opportunity to encourage a greater number of female entrants.

Assessing Australia’s $4.3 trillion investment sector more broadly, the research projected that gender parity is possible by 2030 if the industry deepens its commitment to supporting grassroot talent and developing mid-level female investors.

A recruitment perspective

Future IM/Pact’s data coincides with new figures from Kaizen Recruitment. The financial services recruitment agency’s placement of female candidates is at 45 per cent in 2024, compared to 55 per cent for male candidates.

Breaking down the research by specific areas, ESG and responsible investments see the strongest proportion of female candidates at 61.5 per cent.

Client services, relationship management, and business development followed at 58 per cent, with these positions consistently faring well among women.

Risk, compliance, assurance, and legal teams bring in 53.5 per cent of female candidates, while 50 per cent in finance positions are women. Investment analyst roles are just under parity at 48 per cent for female candidates.


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