Women Are Winning the Market Downturn

Equity portfolios at least partly managed by women outperformed in both 2022 and 2018, according to Investment Metrics.

Illustration by II

Illustration by II

During this year’s market downturn, female portfolio managers have proven to be better safeguards of their investors’ assets than their male counterparts.

Large-cap equity portfolios that are at least partly managed by women lost a median of 2.6 percent from January to September, according to an analysis by Investment Metrics, a Confluence company. Similar portfolios led by all-male teams lost a median of 5.9 percent.

Scott Treacy, research consultant at Investment Metrics and author of the report, analyzed 90 portfolios from 73 asset management firms, including some big names like Abrdn, Franklin Templeton, and Schroders. Only 13 of the 90 large-cap portfolios were either managed or co-managed by a woman.

Women also outperformed men during 2018’s market drawdown, when the MSCI All-County World index lost 8.9 percent, according to the report. “At least in the near term, it would seem that women-led teams do a better job at protecting assets in down markets,” Treacy wrote in the report.

Treacy didn’t find a significant difference in performance before 2012. “However, in the recent five-year period, women have outperformed men in global equity at a median level,” he told II.

The IM report highlighted top women portfolio managers over the past decade, including Elisa Mazen from Clearbridge, Cassandra Hardman from Hardman Johnston, Caroline Cai from Pzena, and Sarah Ketterer from Causeway. Mazen and Hardman, both of whom are growth-style investors, have respectively beaten their benchmarks 80 percent and 73 percent of the time since 2012, according to the report.


Despite their outperformance, women are underrepresented as key decision-makers in the investment industry. In the global large-cap category, women only manage $90 billion of the $698 billion in total strategy assets, according to Investment Metrics. In a 2021 study, Treacy and his colleagues found that only 7 percent of asset managers had appointed women as chief executive officers.

The lack of gender diversity is also present in private markets. According to a McKinsey report published on Tuesday, women only make up 23 percent of investing roles at global private equity firms, even though more gender-diverse PE managers attract twice as much capital from allocators compared to all-male teams.

“Our analysis shows there is a strong case to build female-led teams,” Treacy wrote in the IM report. “More women should be given more opportunities to lead portfolio management teams at asset management firms and more institutional investors should be directing assets towards women-led portfolios.”