Fixed-income mutual funds run by women have outperformed funds run by men since 2003, but the ranks of women fund managers has declined.

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Fixed-income mutual funds run by women have outperformed funds run by men since 2003, so you’d think the number of female managers would be rising.

But the opposite is true: Only 14 U.S. debt funds were managed exclusively by women as of September 2017, compared with 47 in 2004, according to Morningstar.

That’s partly because it can take years to win a management role, and strong, confident women who entered the business several decades ago weren’t always welcomed, say some female fund managers. That dynamic combines with a shortfall of prospects entering the field, given what some see as insufficient college-recruitment initiatives and public role models. So while achieving the highest ranks in this intensely competitive industry is difficult for either gender, it seems women are having a harder time.

“There is still a view that it’s a bit of the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ industry,” said Marie Chandoha, president and chief executive officer of Charles Schwab Investment Management.

Data show that if women can buck the trends, investors will win. During the past 15 years, actively managed fixed-income funds run by women outperformed the average returns of their respective sector category by 0.35 percent annually, according to a new study by Morningstar. This compares with 0.16 percent for mixed-gender teams and 0.08 percent for male-only teams.

“Women are in tune with a good deal of what is going on in the economy,” said Elaine Stokes, a portfolio manager at Loomis Sayles & Co. with three decades of experience. “The more diversity of thought you have, the more you can see in the market and the better you will perform. We’ve proven it.”

In 2015, Morningstar mined data from thousands of equity and fixed-income funds it tracks and found less than 10 percent of U.S. managers were women. Their latest report indicates the share is about the same now. Nearly all jobs created since 2015 have gone to men, said to Laura Pavlenko Lutton, Morningstar’s manager research-practice leader for North America.