Just 3% of asset manager CEOs are female – report

Among the world’s 50 biggest asset managers, just 3% of chief executive officers are women, a report by recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles has found.

The pandemic may make women’s representation even worse, the report warned, in a sector where progress had been mostly “static”.

“As the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has generally been more severe on working women than on their male counterparts, we may, at best, expect progress to remain stalled,” the recruitment firm’s report said, adding that bias, pay gaps and harassment are the reasons women tend to leave the investment sector. 

Released on 7 May, the firm’s research found that the 3% figure for asset management CEOs is lower than the 6% found among the largest publicly listed financial services companies globally.

The research looked at the composition of executive and regional teams, as well as the boards of the top 50 firms ranked in Willis Towers Watson’s asset managers index. 

The research comes as an analysis conducted for Financial News this week found that the proportion of women in the highest paying financial services roles has decreased, and a PwC report said the pandemic is causing a “shecession”, with progress for women in work falling back to 2017 levels.

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Emma Penny, a principal at Heidrick & Struggles in London, and her two co-authors Renee Neri, a partner in the New York office, and Philip Williams, a principal in Hong Kong, also found that 20% of asset manager executive teams and board members are women. 

Of that proportion, a third of these women have a board seat rather than a senior executive position, showing a tendency that women are prioritised for “governance over management roles” and that C-suite positions require “more urgent attention” for the sector. 

A quarter of the biggest asset managers have no women on their board or executive team, the authors found. Asset managers in the US have the most women leaders, with 48%; the UK comes in second place with 19% and France lags behind with 8%. 

One of the crucial aspects of recruiting and retaining more women in an organization is ensuring that they are able to rely on a support system that combines sponsorship, mentorship and coaching, the report argued.

READ Covid-19 is causing a ‘shecession’ as pandemic impacts gender equality at work

Growing the small talent pool of women with experience in the asset management sector is a “far more difficult” challenge to address “as it entails a coordinated sector approach to improving its reputation as an inclusive set of employers, and working with governments and educational institutions in updating curricula and promoting necessary skills for success”, according to Heidrick & Struggles’ research. 

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim