America, You Are Sexist and It's Making You Poorer

Hedge funds headed up by women yield higher returns than those led by men, according to a new study, but investors won't reconsider how they handle their finances because they're clingy and emotional and probably on their periods.

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Hedge funds headed up by women yield higher returns than those led by men, according to a recent study, but investors won't reconsider how they handle their finances because they're clingy and emotional and probably on their periods or something.

According to a study conducted by Rothstein Kass, a business consulting firm, hedge funds led by female executives have consistently outperformed ones run by their male-counterparts, as well as the overall industry benchmark, for the past several years. Rothstein Kass writes in a press release:

For the six and a half years ending June 2013, the Rothstein Kass Women in Alternative Investments (WAI) Hedge Fund Index returned 6 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 4.2 percent and the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index dropped -1.1 percent during the same period. Although performance comparisons are more difficult in the private equity space, a small sample of women-owned or-managed private equity funds reported net returns of 14.8 percent in 2012, topping the Cambridge Associates LLC private equity fund index number of 13.8 percent. 

The firm's report, “Women in Alternative Investments: A Marathon, Not a Sprint” surveyed 440 senior female hedge fund managers, investors and service providers over the course of five weeks and analyzed their responses. The authors analyzed 82 hedge funds altogether.

According to the New York Times, the report shows that even though women are better hedge fund leaders than men, more men get the job:

Of the women surveyed, only 15.5 percent said their firm was owned or managed by a woman. Among hedge funds in particular, 21.4 percent were owned or managed by women. About 42 percent of the respondents said their firm had no general partners who were women. And nearly 40 percent of the firms included in the survey had no women on their investment committees.

You'd think that savvy, sophisticated hedge funds seekers would jump at the opportunity to invest in rare, successful firms. "What?" you'd think they'd say, "I can safely bet that this fund will grow my many dollars, and nobody else seems to know about it, and it's not any riskier than normal hedge funds? Sign me up, butler!" You'd think that the best-kept secret in alternative finance would soon not be a secret at all, to the point where smart, competent, attractive young b-school grads would have to work so much harder than their female counterparts just to be considered for jobs they're equally, if not more, qualified for. But even though survey respondents said they expect more female finance executives to break into the industry in the coming years, it sounds like these sophisticated investors aren't interested, according to the report

The lion’s share of investors percent, 73.5 percent, anticipates that their allocations to women-owned or -managed funds will remain the same in 2014. However, 24.5 percent expect allocations to increase somewhat, and 2 percent expect allocations to women-owned or -managed funds to increase significantly.

But why wouldn't investors jump at this golden financial opportunity?

Roughly 93 percent of the investors polled have no specified mandate to invest in women-owned or -managed funds.

Oh, that explains it. Investors don't have a specific mandate to invest in women-owned or -managed funds. But, they do have another mandate, right? A "use this money to make more money" mandate? You'd think that according to that mandate, investors would be interested in investing in women-owned or -managed funds even though nobody told them to do it, specifically.

The investors further explained that:

“Lack of supply” of women-owned or -managed funds was cited as one of the most common reasons why investors do not have specific women-owned or -managed fund investment mandates.

Oh, so there just aren't enough women who are operating or managing funds to warrant a mandate to invest in these (rare! lucrative!) operations. That's weird, because last we checked supply rises to meet demand, so if demand is lacking — perhaps for irrational reasons like entrenched sexism and a boys-club economics — supply won't change.

Maybe the investors don't trust female hedge fund managers because they read this part of a CNBC article called "Are Women Worse Investors Than Men?":

Women's reluctance to take risks, and the potential shortfall they face in retirement, have been a growing concern among policymakers and women's advocates. An opinion survey from Prudential insurance company last year found that while some 70 percent of men are willing to take financial risks, fewer than half of women were.

But forgot to read this part:

But the new report, released by the online rewards program for savings and debt-management, is based on actual account balances entered by 20,000 of the site's users during the past month, and provides a remarkably clear and up-to-date snapshot of men's and women's financial habits. The figures are stark and startling. The average man with a savings account had a balance of nearly twice as much as the average woman, and is taking an even greater advantage of high-yield tax-deferred instruments: Men's average IRA balance was 72 percent more than the average woman's, and they have 30 percent more in taxable investments.

"Risk-averse" may be kind of a reductive way to think about the investing practices of a woman with half the savings and a fraction of the prospect of post-retirement stability of her male counterpart, who knows that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, and that female executives, when they do break through the glass ceiling, are vilified and harassed and questioned in a way no man would be.

Women have been earning more college degrees than men for years, but are still underrepresented in business graduate programs. So until women overrepresent in academic settings to correct a problem of underrepresentation in the working world, we recommend you patronize hedge funds run by women. We have a feeling they'll be underutilized for a long time.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.