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The excellence of Indian woman fund managers isn’t enough to break glass ceilings

Reuters/Damir Sagol
By Madhura Karnik
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Studies show that women have an edge over men in handling money, but the Indian industry doesn’t know that yet.

Only 7%, or 18 of the 269 fund managers in Asia’s third-largest economy, are women, a report by investment research firm Morningstar says. Fund managers are often the highest authority at investment corporations and mutual funds, taking million-dollar decisions.

In contrast are countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Spain, and Israel, where over 20% of the fund managers are women, the report said.

India’s mutual fund (MF) industry handles Rs17.89 lakh crore ($268 billion) in assets but has for long been dominated by men, even when women made it to the top in finance and banking. Woman fund managers, including big names such as Sohini Andani of SBI Funds Management and Swati Kulkarni of UTI Asset Management, handle assets worth Rs2.32 lakh crore, the report said.

While the Morningstar study did not specify the reasons for this gender bias, they are unlikely to be different from the barriers Indian women face at workplaces in other fields.

For instance, it is difficult for them to return to the workforce after taking a career break to start a family. Even if they do, their chances at promotion are slim as employers see such breaks as roadblocks in career progression.

That’s why, while there are many women in middle-level management (pdf) at most Indian companies, few move up. In banking, a sector that has one of the highest numbers of female CEOs in India, only 20.18% of the officers (pdf) were women in 2014.

They also have to contend with the widespread perception, in the face of facts, that they don’t know enough about finance.

“There are areas in society where women are not allowed to handle money even within the family, and there are pockets where, historically, women have run businesses,” Sandhya Vasudevan, COO at Deutsche Bank India, told Quartz in December 2015.

But Morningstar showed that Indian woman fund managers are, in fact, doing a good job, with the funds handled by them delivering consistent returns. ”Out of the total assets managed by woman fund managers (in India), 80% outperformed the benchmark/peer group average over one-year basis,” the report said.

Unfortunately, excellence doesn’t always help break glass ceilings.

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