, Salem, MA


February 2, 2013

Column: Women are making gains in finance

After covering women in finance for almost two decades, I smell a revolution in the works.

Two new surveys show women are kicking the behinds of the financial industry’s male-dominated hierarchy.

A report released earlier this month by the financial-services firm Rothstein Kass reveals that female hedge-fund managers leveraged an average 8.9 percent return in the third quarter of 2012. A separate report from Hedge Fund Research showed that, globally, hedge funds averaged a mere 2.69 percent return during the same period.

This great news turns on its head the conventional view of women as averse to risk-taking and afraid to trust their gut instincts when it comes to investing.

But then there’s the Prudential Financial Inc.’s report on women’s financial experience and behaviors. Its 10th-anniversary edition, released last summer, displays a more traditional view of women as timid investors in need of guidance. Among the findings:

“Women are not confident about making financial decisions, and do not fully understand many of the increasingly sophisticated financial products that are available.”

“Fewer than two in 10 women feel ‘very prepared’ to make wise financial decisions. Half indicate that they ‘need some help,’ and one-third feel that they ‘need a lot of help.’”

“Nearly nine in 10 of those who are looking for a lot of help need guidance on how to choose financial products. ... They say their knowledge of annuities, mutual funds and individual securities is limited.”

Granted, I’m picking and choosing these findings; the Prudential report also had some au courant findings about women investors that I’ve left out.

In general, the notion of white-gloved ladies too frail and feeble to fend for themselves in the cutthroat world of finance is giving way to new trends showing that, both as personal investors and as high financiers, women are much more emboldened. They can now take on and even beat investment decisions made by men.

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