Outdated ideas about gender roles are still are still holding women back in the fund management industry, according to GAM Investments.
Speaking at the The Power of Diversity: Women at GAM conference, Denise Prime, investment director of emerging markets and fixed income at GAM, discussed the difficulties women still face in asset management.
She said: "Some of the reasons for the low numbers are because of societal issues - the idea that the city is a place for men. These ideas are changing, but slowly.
Diversity is important to improving decision making."
"Diversity is important to improving decision making. If you are only looking at and choosing from a limited pool then you are inevitably going to miss it out on a whole range of talents and skills."
The percentage of female fund managers across the world has not changed during the last 20 years, despite the growth in mutual funds.
Figures from Morningstar show that at the end 0f 2020 14% of fund managers were women, the same percentage as in 2000.
Prime said that as fund management prizes stability and long-term track records that there are relatively few opportunities to move into lead manager roles for women.
"Unfortunately, a family often coincides with the point in their careers where they have gained enough experience to be moving into these more senior roles," she said.
"It is not fair that assumptions are made about women's future choices and their commitment to their careers, which can result in a lack of support and development opportunities.
"Women deserve fair and equal opportunities to develop their careers, regardless of decisions that they may or may not make in the future."
One solution to improving gender diversity is through mentoring. Mentors can help guide and navigate guide individuals who are struggling with the career if they lack insider knowledge, as well as offering advice and emotional support.
However, Monika Machon, board member at GAM, said sponsors are more likely to help women progress as they can use their power and influence.
"When I worked at the AIG Asset Management we found women have lots of mentors to help them with career progression," she said.
"But a mentor is not necessarily going to be that person who is in the room when promotions are being discussed. You really have to have a sponsor in the room, somebody that has been willing to invest time in you over the course of your career, so that when the moment comes for the big promotion somebody is there speaking for you."
Catherine Lapadula, managing director at UBS, agreed.
"The good news today is that there many more opportunities for women than there have ever been before, but the bad news is no one is just going to just give them a job. Women have to make it happen," she said.
"Mentors are nice, but not always effective. You want someone in the room who is so impressed with your work they will proactively advocate for your opportunities. If you have not found that person yet, don't despair. Work harder, introduce yourself and you will find that person."
Prime said that despite the gender disparity, there are fulfilling long-term opportunities for women in fund management.
"The roles women have are not always highly visible in the asset management, which perpetuates the idea that the industry is somehow unwelcoming for women," she said.
"This is really unfortunate, because being part of the fund management team, whether as a fund manager or as an analyst, is hugely rewarding.
"Given the focus on diversity and the various initiatives to propel this forward, there has not been a better time for women to consider a career in asset management."
This article was first published by our sister title Investment Week