Women have a long way to go on Wall Street, and nowhere is this more true than in the hedge fund industry, where only 15% of CEOs are women.
While women often hold marketing and compliance roles, they are rare in investing positions, which usually pay the most.
There are a lot of reasons for the gap, among them biases, cliquey hiring, and weaker professional networks.
Last year, I spoke with female investors about what it is like working in the industry. We’re republishing their stories in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8.
Some spoke of annoying biases — one woman who launched her own fund said she stopped wearing her wedding ring at investor meetings because she grew tired of questions about what her husband did. Others spoke of being ignored for the investment ideas they presented or hearing crass talk about female colleagues.
Most said their experiences had, on the whole, been otherwise positive. Investing proves a quantifiable measure on which to be measured, something other careers lack, some mentioned. There are fewer gray areas on which to be measured, the thinking goes, if you can point to a number that proves your performance for the year.
Everyone asked to be kept anonymous so to not jeopardize their careers. Here are their stories.
“There’s a general theme of being discounted” — Investor on an all-male investment team
“I have developed a lot of thick skin. It’s not uncommon when we discuss an investment idea, I’ll raise my hand, the question will be dismissed, and then a [male] colleague will ask the same question and there will be a 30-minute conversation.”
“When I travel, when I’m in boardrooms, people will direct questions to my [male] boss and not me, even though I presented … There’s a general theme of being discounted almost or doubted and a general assumption of ‘she must be the IR [investor relations rep].'”
“It’s a delicate line. I want to be treated equally and be one of the boys. Sometimes they say lewd comments and it goes in one ear and out the other. I want it to be a natural environment where they feel they can speak freely.”
“There’s a certain approach to conversation that comes out of knowing what is expected in a conversation” — Investor who studied engineering
“I’ve always operated in an environment where the distribution was highly skewed … There’s a certain approach to conversation that comes out of knowing what is expected in a conversation. Sticking to a need to say basis. Speak about what’s relevant. The content matters … being to the point.”
“If you’re in the minority, being the only woman on the team, your voice is heard more. I think of it like a parent with 10 kids and you think you have an underdog in the family. You think you need to call out the weakest link, the quietest child so you can hear what the quietest child has to say … The fact that you are the only one on the team makes you more visible in many ways. And the reason you made the team is because you met certain criteria and you deserve to be on the team. And you have a level of credibility that you get to be heard, and amplified.”
“He was surprised I wasn’t pitching a more ‘girly’ name” — Hedge fund analyst
“It has always been a more uncomfortable game of numbers where the ratio of male to females in any event is 10 to one and the men huddle together and the women are sort of separated. In one instance, I was meeting with an analyst from a hedge fund in the city and he asked whether I had any names I could pitch him. I began to talk about a semiconductor company when he interrupted to say he was surprised I wasn’t pitching a more ‘girly’ name.”