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Leading by Example

These industry leaders are paving the way for women in asset management.

Laura Lallos and Madison Sargis, 04/10/2017

Morningstar’s research on fund managers underscores the fact that women remain underrepresented but also highlights encouraging signs of improvement. Against that statistical backdrop are the individual women who have already blazed trails in the field and are guiding others on the path.

We sat down with three industry leaders whose success illustrates the prospects for other women: Marie Chandoha, president and CEO of Charles Schwab Investment Management; Sonal Desai, portfolio manager and director of research for Templeton Global Macro at Franklin Templeton Investments; and Mary Ellen Stanek, president of Baird Funds and CIO of Baird Advisors. (Desai and Stanek and their teams were both nominees for Morningstar’s Fixed-Income Fund Manager of the Year in 2016.)

Chandoha, Desai, and Stanek explored the reasons for the current statistics on female fund managers, and offered solutions to improving the numbers. They shared their insights in a discussion on Feb. 13. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Why do you think women remain poorly represented in asset management, particularly when compared with fields like medicine or law?

Marie Chandoha: Two things jump to my mind. One is awareness. It’s certainly a smaller field than law or medicine, and not as well-known. When I looked at the original study Morningstar did [in 2015], there were only around 7,700 portfolio managers in the U.S. The number of doctors is much, much larger. We as a firm have been partnering with the nonprofit Girls Who Invest, which tries to bring women into the portfolio management field. They discovered that many college-aged women don’t know about this career path.

Role models can be transformative. I’m a firm believer in “if you can see it, you can be it.” I recently asked a portfolio manager in my organization what attracted her to the field. She spoke about another woman portfolio manager who helped educate her about the career path and set her on the course.

Sonal Desai: One point I’d make is that portfolio managers don’t get credentialed immediately; you grow to become an asset manager. So, perhaps a better comparison would be to partners in law firms, as opposed to just lawyers. I wonder to what extent what we’re seeing in asset management is related to what you also see in technology. Even sooner than college, in middle school, girls are not given enough of a push toward what are regarded as more quantitative fields. Indeed, at Franklin, we’re also taking part in the Girls Who Invest program for the reason of raising awareness.

Mary Ellen Stanek: I think of it in two ways. First, it’s self-selection, encouragement, and awareness-building among young women. That’s one side. We’ve encouraged broad internship programs as an opportunity for both men and women to test-drive the career. We provide female role models who have successfully navigated through this field and have balanced lives.

Laura Lallos is a former Morningstar analyst and editor, and a frequent contributor to Morningstar Advisor magazine.

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