At Institutional Investor’s and CNBC’s Delivering Alpha conference, Systematica Investments CEO Leda Braga observed that when she started working at London hedge fund BlueCrest Capital Management, she “was 34 weeks pregnant,” as Institutional Investor’s International Editor Tom Buerkle tweeted.

Leda Braga is one tough cookie. "I started at BlueCrest when I was 34 weeks pregnant." #DeliveringAlpha

— Tom Buerkle (@tombuerkle) July 15, 2015

Braga also said that rumor had it that when BlueCrest managers interviewed her, they failed to notice her pregnancy — an anecdote that illustrates the obliviousness of some quants. But her story caught my attention for another reason. When Braga launched her firm earlier this year, London-based Systematica became one of the rare hedge funds run by a woman.

A 2009 study by New York–based not-for-profit National Council for Research on Women, now called Re:Gender, found that women-led hedge fund firms made up only 3 percent of managers. The number of women investment professionals in hedge funds is similarly tiny. The male-female imbalance persists despite the fact that hedge funds often claim to be meritocracies.

The observation that the hedge fund industry lacks gender diversity is hardly new. My colleague Fran Denmark wrote a feature on women hedge fund investors before the financial crisis. Recently, as the issue of women in the workplace has become a popular topic, the hedge fund industry’s lack of women has come up more often.

As I was researching this year’s Hedge Fund Rising Stars, our annual list of 30 hedge fund up-and-comers, I hunted for eligible female portfolio managers, but the effort was disheartening. In what is a very tough hedge fund start-up environment, Systematica was one of the few hedge fund firms, if not the only one, launched in the past 18 months with a woman in charge.

I wanted to find the reasons for this and explore some solutions, so I reached out to some influential women. Among them: Afsaneh Beschloss, CEO of Washington-based fund of funds Rock Creek Group; Nadine Terman, CEO of San Francisco hedge fund firm Solstein Capital; and Katherine Chan, a partner at the New York’s Anandar Capital Management. These three come from different backgrounds and are at different points in their careers. All three are respected, successful and have made it a point to further the cause of women in alternative investing.