Women in the Industry: Beyond the Scorecard

March 2020

As we prepare to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, the new decade is a good time to evaluate where we stand. Progress has been made, but not quickly enough. Advances in gender equality also look very different across social, political, economic, geographic, and cultural parameters.

The investment management industry has made some significant strides, but there is still a long way to go. Some of the most unflinching data for our industry comes from a recent CFA Institute report on gender diversity, which confirms the substantial work we still face to improve gender representation in our field.1

The CFA Institute numbers show that only about 10% of key leadership roles in our industry are held by women. And the pipeline to leadership in senior investment roles is not robust, with women representing just over 15% of all CFA charterholders in the U.S., 20% in the UK, and closer to 30% in a number of Asian countries.

Looking at gender diversity more broadly, McKinsey & Company’s annual ‘Women in the Workplace’ report points to some meaningful progress on the representation of women in senior leadership, but weaker results at the mid-manager level.2 This story is even less encouraging for women of color. However, McKinsey cites progress in companies’ commitment to fostering a culture of support and opportunity—including things like benefits, family leave policies, flexible work options, and mentorship programs. This kind of culture is a critical factor in improving representation, though it is not yet yielding broad gains.

We also need to look at the pay gap. A recent UK study showed that the gender gap in asset management stood at 31%, the second-worst of the industries surveyed, and that the data has not been moving in the right direction in recent years.3 Women who work in Acadian’s local community of Greater Boston -- where financial services as a whole is a significant part of the local economy -- earn significantly less than their male colleagues. Yet women are the majority of both Boston’s residents and workforce.

What can be done? In Boston, we’ve joined the 100 Percent Talent Compact. This is a first-in-the-nation, community-driven effort to level the playing field for working women. By signing the Compact, Acadian has joined forces with the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a public-private partnership between the City of Boston, Boston University, and more than 220 Boston-area employers to close the gender wage gap. While Acadian has long been committed to gender equity in pay, our participation allows us to collaborate with the Council and its membership on innovative strategies to address wage gap issues.

We have come to see that so much of the work to be done is not about policy setting and enforcement. It’s about a cultural and mindset shift. Fewer than half of all CFA members, for example, agreed in the survey I cited above that mixed gender teams can lead to better results because of more diverse viewpoints. (The women-only group of respondents affirmed this statement at a rate of 70%). This speaks to the need to instill these values from the top down.

We also recognize the importance of building the pipeline and laying the groundwork for greater representation at the senior levels at a much earlier stage in a woman’s career than the industry historically has—this is something that the data and the research is clear about. Acadian’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum at Acadian, which I co-chair, aims to look at the bigger picture, thinking about how we can make meaningful gains as a firm. In addition to our cultural, promotion and retention efforts, we focus on pipeline development through relationships with a number of local organizations to attract, develop, and retain a diverse workforce.

We see these efforts not merely as a check-box exercise on our socially aware scorecard, but as essential to promoting the cognitive diversity that we believe is critical to our success as a firm. We know that a diverse workforce leads not only to a stronger culture, but to greater innovation, more robust debate around important management questions, and ultimately more successful business results.

We are encouraged to see how these conversations are unfolding in workplaces like ours around the world. For ideas to inspire, the Diversity Project is an excellent resource. We welcome a dialogue with like-minded firms, and invite you to reach out if you would like to connect on these issues.


  1. Report: Gender Diversity in Investment Management, CFA Institute Research Foundation, October 2016.
  2. Report: Women in the Workplace 2019, McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, October 2019.
  3. Report: ‘Time to get serious: If diversity is a business imperative, treat it like one,’ The Diversity Project and PwC, September 2019.

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