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Women in Asset Management

Women in Asset Management: Are women put off applying for executive positions in Asset Management?

1917, the year the suffragettes changed history and the first women won the right to vote in the Netherlands (1908 in the UK). Fast forward 100 years and as we celebrate such a feat, we look at the compelling issue of why there are so few women in asset management holding executive positions.

Of course, this topic is far broader than just the Asset Management sector. It is prevalent across all industries. But being one of our main areas of expertise we wanted to delve deeper into the industry specifically.

The numbers
A 2017 study by McKinsey claims the number of women at management level to be only 20% in Asset Management (just 3% at C-Suite level). Although the number doesn’t increase massively in other industries, this is still a drop.

Today’s society is rich with empowered women and strong female voices. Great role models and a focus on improving job diversity. Women in executive positions is as hot a topic as it has ever been. But why is Asset Management so far behind in its diversity in these executive positions. It is thought women hold nearly 50% of entry level positions in Asset Management. But clearly there is a disconnection at some point to entry level and executive positions.

The women in these positions are clearly performing. MorningStar carried out a study and found that having one or more women on a fund’s management team improved the odds of a new fund’s launch attracting the numbers required to be a success.

Could a job description put off women in asset management applying for an executive position?
Recent research has indicated there could be some truth behind it. Could this be a key indicator in what are still fairly low numbers for women in executive management positions in the UK and the Netherlands? (24% in the UK according to Grant Thornton’s 2018 Women in Business study and only 10% in the Netherlands according to Topvrouwen).

Textio, an “augmented writing software” company based in Seattle believe it’s the former. Their recent research of hundreds of millions of job descriptions suggests that even the word “manage” encourages more men than women to apply for the role. Could it be as simple as this?

They are of the belief if words such as “develop” replace “manage” then women are much more likely to apply. Their software aims to replace particularly masculine words with more female friendly terminology. The science behind it might not be concrete, but one Australian firm put it to the test.

Although it is not in the Asset Management sector, Atlassian, a software giant in Australia adopted the Textio software to their job descriptions. What did they see? A colossal 80% increase in the hiring of women in technical roles. A staggering increase over a 2-year period. Although the findings aren’t industry specific, the findings still raise eyebrows.

Does history still play a part?
The findings Textio base their company on are interesting. Maybe overly masculine words do have an impact. Whether it be consciously or subconsciously.

Whether this is true or not, we can’t also neglect the fact that history might also play a prominent part in this debate. The numbers don’t lie, as low as 3% C-Suite female representation is highly concerning. Perhaps some women don’t apply for a role thinking they won’t get it anyway as a man is bound to get it. Even if this is true in some scenarios, surely times are now changing.

The 30% club, launched in 2010 is one initiative created to combat this issue. McKinsey estimate it won’t be until 2030 before we see gender parity. 12 years is a long way off. Why wait 12 years? This process needs to start now.


As a boutique executive recruitment firm, we would never let sex play an indicator when commencing our searches. Our aim is always to find the best talent for our clients. If we felt a person was right for a position, we would contact them. If you are good enough for the position it doesn’t matter to us if you are a Kenneth or Kimberley.

But applying for a position directly yourself could still be very different. Do the topics covered affect you when looking for roles? If this is of interest to you why not check out this blog about “Why Diversity Matters

This debate is fascinating and will grow and grow. We would love to hear your views on the issue, so please join the conversation on all of Moorlands Human Capital’s / Lens, Executive Search media platforms.


About this article: this was written by our colleagues in the UK. We are all part of  Kennedy Executive. The original article can be found:

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