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There has been a keen focus on diversity in the asset management space over the past several years — and for good reason. There is still a striking underrepresentation of women in all corners of the industry.

Just 9.9% of firms managing mutual funds are women-owned, according to a report by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The disparity in hedge funds is even starker, per the study, with just 4.6% of firms led by women managing only 1.5% of industry assets.

Meanwhile, Harvard Business Review reports that just 2% of mutual funds are run by female managers. In the hedge fund universe, 4% of portfolio managers are women, while only 1.5% of assets are under their control.

Every year, Money Management Executive recognizes women who are making significant contributions in asset management.

Many in this year’s group — including co-founders, managing directors, presidents and chief operating officers — have a lot to say about how women have advanced in the industry over the years.

Lucille Protas, managing director, president and COO of MacKay Shields, and a 46-year industry veteran, notes, “At my level, I am still sometimes the only woman at the table, but I’m aware that there have been many advances for women, and we now have the opportunity to build on our success and promote further change.”

She adds, “We aren’t yet where we need to be, but I’m encouraged by the progress that we have made so far.”

Dina Santoro, senior managing director, head of product and marketing strategy for Voya Investment Management, says, “I’m fortunate to be part of the generation in asset management that has had women — though they may still be too few — in key senior leadership roles like portfolio manager, chief investment officer and CEO.”

She adds that she is “optimistic that the focus at firms is moving from awareness to tangible actions that result in more women being attracted to financial services.”

Denise Krisko, president and co-founder of Vident Investment Advisory, says that, even in graduate school, she was a minority.

“There were very few women in the MBA program, let alone asset management,” she recalls. “One of our finance professors was a woman and she was really thrilled to see me there.”

The top 20 are now home to nearly $1.2 trillion in combined assets.
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There are increasing efforts to confront the gender and diversity problem in asset management. A 2018 CFA Institute report tackles some key related industry issues, including how to motivate asset managers to improve diversity in their firms, how to recruit diverse talent and how to learn from firms who have been successful in diversity initiatives.

Several of the women included on our list this year are also mentors to other women who are either in or are considering careers in asset management. This includes Protas, who has initiated and led programs such as Girls with Goals, Women in Investment Management and Women in Research.

To select the winners, we used a nomination process that sought industry participation. Editors then reviewed candidate qualifications in order to select the final choices.

Stay tuned to Money Management Executive over the next several days for profiles of the 10 women who have made noteworthy contributions to their firms, the asset management industry and their communities.

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Diversity and equality Asset management Mutual funds C-suite Mentoring Hedge funds Voya Money Management Executive