Women are on track to become richer in coming decades. How they invest it will move markets.
The stubborn refusal of the gender pay gap to close, or even narrow, is a constant source of frustration for anyone who cares about equality between the sexes. That’s to say nothing of the void separating women and men when it comes to, for example, the number holding senior positions, the rates of promotion or representation in industries like tech. There is, however, one gap that is steadily closing. Women are getting richer.
The Boston Consulting Group reported that between 2010 and 2015, private wealth held by women grew from $34 trillion to $51 trillion. Most of the private wealth that will change hands in the next 20 or 30 years will go into the hands of women. There are multiple reasons for this, reports The Economist, one of them being that participation in the labor market is increasing and women are being paid more. Another is that women are inheriting more money from their husbands or parents, who are more likely to treat sons and daughters equally than they have done historically.
Do women invest differently?
One impact of this trend is that women will have more money to invest and more influencing power over investment decisions. This can only be welcomed by anyone who has seen the current disparities that exist in, for example, the number of female partners at top venture capitalist firms, or the amount of investment in female-led businesses.
But do women invest in the same way as men? There is little recent data. However, historical surveys have shown that men are generally more cavalier about risk than their female counterparts. A University of California study called Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence and Common Stock Investment found in 2001 that women outperformed men in the market by one percentage point a year because, they said, men were much more likely to be overconfident and make rash decisions that cost them money.
But surveys also show that men are more likely to treat investing as an end in itself. In other words, men pitch themselves against the market, and consider outperforming the market to represent success. Women, in contrast, tend to see their investing as a means to an end — a way of accumulating enough money to, for example, buy a house or retire early. A corollary is that, rather than focus solely on commercial gains, more women look for businesses that have a social purpose or are at least sustainable. This is true for all kinds of investments: according to UBS, 88 percent of women want to invest in organizations that “promote social well-being.”
Do women know more?
Another reason for this is that women also do more research, according to HSBC, who found that 17 percent of women, compared to 13 percent of men, spend more than a month researching investment options. Erika Karp, the founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital and the former head of Global Sector Research at UBS Investment Bank, told Professional Wealth Management that transparency is at the core of sustainable investing and women like to be thoroughly informed before acting.
Financial editor and writer LouAnna Lofton, who studied the habits of Warren Buffett and compared them to research about gender and investing, has also found that women match their investments more closely to their goals and remain calmer during market turbulence. During a downturn, she says, female investment portfolios weather the storm far better than male ones.
Investing is not some get-rich-quick scheme and there is always a degree of risk. But those women who are comfortable with that risk should not be deterred by the aggressive macho investor stereotype. The proof of the increasing success of women in the world of investing can be seen in the female-focused investment firms that have sprung up. As Alexander Taussig, the senior vice president for women investors at Fidelity, has said, “The myth that men are better investors is just that — a myth.”
But rather than pitch men and women and their typical respective styles against each other, we might look to the success of diverse teams across the business world for a far more productive use of this information. A widely circulated study undertaken by McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability. And in February this year, it was discovered that funds managed by mixed gender teams attracted 6 percent more inflows than those run solely by men or women over three years. Diversity, it’s clear, is good for business.