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Fidelity launches fund targeting firms with women in leadership roles

Fidelity Investments has started a mutual fund that invests in companies with a high percentage of women in leadership positions.

The actively managed Women’s Leadership Fund will invest in about 100 companies that have either one-third women board members, a woman on the senior management team or that meet gender diversity initiatives for hiring, retention, paid leave and promotion of women, according to a statement.

Fidelity Investments CEO Abby Johnson says she wants to stem workplace harassment at her firm.
Abigail Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of Fidelity Investments, speaks during a presentation at the Securities Industry And Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) annual meting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. Over the last two months, Fidelity, one of the largest investment companies, has dismissed two portfolio managers -- one over allegations of inappropriate sexual comments and another over claims of sexually harassing a female junior employee. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“I’m looking for companies that I believe are committed to female leadership and development, that can grow earnings more than the market and that have resilient businesses models,” says Nicole Connolly, Fidelity’s head of ESG investing and the fund’s portfolio manager.

Strategies that focus on gender are growing in popularity as managers appeal to more socially conscious investors. The Fidelity fund sets a high bar for such funds, which typically require that a company have from one to three women on their board to qualify for the strategy.

Connolly says she hopes her fund will be an incentive for companies to promote and hire more women and will back proposals at companies that push for gender targets. She says the average percentage of women on boards in the Russell 3000 index is about 17%.

The Women’s Leadership Fund, which can allocate across all sectors, is looking at about 700 companies in the Russell 3000 index as potential investments and expects that universe to keep growing. It has no investment minimums.

There are about 40 gender-focused investment funds, according to data tracked by Bloomberg, and more than half of them were launched since 2017.

Bloomberg News