There has been countless sobering assessments for asset managers in the past 12 months, focused on regulatory demands, disruption caused by technology or serious revenue pressures from fee compression.

But the winners of this year's Money Management Executive's Top Women in Asset Management Awards see change as an opportunity, and put their faith in the idea that a more diverse industry will find ways past its current challenges.

Whether managing billions, developing new products or redefining client service, this year's winners continue to break through barriers.

What's remarkable about this year's group of Women in Asset Management winners is that they have ushered in change across the industry and found success in their efforts, be it in product innovation, investing, marketing or firm leadership.

At the SEC, Dalia Blass shepharded the approval of Eaton Vance's NextShares application; Angie Long created the first liquid credit trading index; Cathy Saunders works to reform how managers connect with female investors and millennials; and Kristi Mitchem oversees an asset management firm with more than $480 billion in AUM.

Yet according to Morningstar research, the number of mutual funds headed by women in the U.S. actually slipped 1% since 2008. Female portfolio managers globally are a rare commodity, but compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. fund industry lags far behind in terms of sheer percentages of female fund managers, Morningstar reports.

Singapore, Portugal and FrancUI ae all have industries that can boast 20% of their overall funds are being managed by women. Mexico has a higher percentage of female-led mutual funds than the U.S. does.

"Compare that to the percentage of U.S. lawyers who are women (36%) or doctors (33%) — professions that require similar levels of education — and it is clear that the fund industry is drawing from a relatively limited talent pool," writes Laura Lallos, managing editor of Morningstar magazine, in its latest issue exploring the research.

That's not to say change isn't happening. Morningstar found that women have better chance of being a member of a management team running an equity or fixed-income fund than running an actively managed fund.

Tamara Philippe, president of Bridgeway Capital Management and one of this year's winners, says anyone listening to women in the industry will quickly learn that opportunities for improvement are abundant.

"One great aspect of our industry is that we are research-driven," she says. "The prospects for women will continue to improve since the evidence is indisputable that diversity enhances the chances of success for clients and asset management firms," she says.

To select this year's group of winners, Money Management Executive used a nomination process that sought industry participation; editors then reviewed candidate qualifications and deliberated extensively on their choices.

What follows is a list of the women who have made significant contributions to the field and their organizations, and demonstrated a commitment to helping other women rise to key roles in the field.

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