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Gender Diversity

Realizing the return on gender diversity

Realizing the return on gender diversity

It’s been so encouraging to see the progress women have been making across so many industries these past few years. There’s better female representation on corporate boards. Women are enjoying more opportunities for meaningful advancement than ever before. As long overdue as these changes are, they are still welcome. And while some sectors are more advanced than others, even traditionally male-dominated industries, like alternative investments, are making some encouraging moves in the right direction. 

As it stands today, there’s still a lot of room for women to grow in the alternative investments space. According to a recent article in Institutional Investor, right now, “less than one in five employees at alternative asset management firms are female – and still fewer women hold senior roles or investing positions.”1

But what has it been about the asset management industry in general that has made it more challenging for women to start and grow their careers? For starters, there are fewer women leaders in the industry to serve as role models for the younger generation. There have been (and continue to be) issues around work-life balance. And for those firms actively seeking female employees, the talent pipeline is lacking. 

Isn’t it funny, though, that in an industry that’s focused so intently on generating returns, many firms are leaving money on the table by not being more proactive about gender diversity. 

The verdict is in ... there are clear connections between increased gender diversity, particularly at the decision-maker level, and superior business outcomes, better risk mitigation and higher returns. For those firms that take gender diversity seriously, the business results speak for themselves. Catalyst research shows that companies with more women in executive positions have total returns to shareholders that are 34% higher than those that those that do not.2  

Together with AIF Global, KPMG firms recently collected insights from female executives in the industry to learn more about the barriers and to find out what more could be done to accelerate the move toward greater gender diversity in the alternative investments space. Here are some of the things they said:

  • Say it with numbers: If you want to make the case for gender diversity, do it with cold, hard data. Provide decision-makers with compelling facts underlining why it’s worth their time and effort. For example, the Credit Suisse Research Institute says companies with at least one female board member outperformed their peers by 26% over the prior 6-year period.3 There’s a long list of similar metrics.  
  • Fix the talent pipeline: Many alternative investment leaders say they can’t find female candidates to fill open positions. If you attend a women’s event in the alternative assets industry, the talented females will be there. In addition, organizations like Girls Who Invest, which connects young women with investing roles, are working to address this gap. 
  • Address the work-life balance dilemma: Once many women attain a certain level in an alternative investment firm, they tend to leave, worried about the conflict between personal/family responsibilities and their investing roles. Each firm needs to do more to address the work environments that lead many women to leave. 
  • It’s about boosting confidence: Research shows that despite having similar qualifications, education and experience, women are less likely than men to take risks at work, which is a necessary part of advancing in any career. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, “…women themselves aren’t as likely as men to put themselves forward for leadership roles through promotions, job transfers and high-profile assignments.”4 Firms need to seek women for those promotions. 
  • The need for more role models: So many young women tell us that if there are no women leaders to look up to in their industry, they won’t stick around. We need to have more female role models in positions of power to inspire the next generation.

There’s some great work being done to attract, retain and advance female employees in the alternative investment space. But there needs to be a more focused effort on removing the obstacles that stand in the way of women’s success and providing them with an encouraging, supportive environment that helps them thrive in this rewarding and fulfilling industry. 


1. Source: "Only 15% of alternative investment teams are female" – Institutional Investor, October 11, 2017

2. Source: "The Business Case for Gender Diversity: Update 2017" – Huffington Post, April 30, 2017

3. Source: "The Business Case for Gender Diversity: Update 2017" – Huffington Post, April 30, 2017

4. Source: "Women are Less Likely to Apply for Executive Roles if They’ve Been Rejected Before” –

Harvard Business Review, February 7, 2017


This article represents the views of the author(s) only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG LLP