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Coline Pavot, Head of Responsible Investment Research, La Financière de l’Echiquier (LFDE)

There is an ongoing conversation about the place of women in business. It covers a range of issues, from professional equality to the glass ceiling and presence on boards, and progress is proving to be very slow. The situation of women in the corporate world seems to mirror the inequalities that endure in society as a whole. The financial sector is no exception, with a marked underrepresentation of women. We take a closer look at this defining societal challenge.

Coline Pavot - Funds Society
Coline Pavot – LFDE


Globally, it is estimated that women make up around a quarter of the people working in the financial sector. According to a 2018 IMF study, women account for 18% of portfolio managers and 13% of senior management positions. Only 2% of the world’s banks are headed by a woman! Fortunately, women tend to be more represented in the ranks of sustainable finance, and women are playing a key role in transforming the financial industry. A 2020 FIR study shows that the proportion of women in sustainable fund management is slightly higher than in traditional fund management (25% vs 19%), probably due to women’s greater interest in environmental and social issues.


Besides being a challenge for society, numerous studies show that increasing the number of women is also – and above all – an economic issue. According to the IMF, increasing the number of women in the financial sector would lead to greater stability in the banking system and economic growth. Increasing the number of women in governance bodies is particularly strategic. Companies where women make up more than 30% of directors have lower earnings volatility,[1] and those that promote gender balance in their management teams outperform their peers by up to 25%. These companies have also been shown to be more innovative and better able to attract top talent.[2]


Faced with this observation and the need to increase the presence of women within business, it is sometimes necessary to rely on an incentive regulatory framework. France is a pioneer in this area. At the end of 2021, it adopted the Rixain law, which aims to increase the participation of women in economic and professional life. This came twelve years after the Copé-Zimmerman law, which required a minimum of 40% women on boards of directors. Following on from the French legislation, a European directive was adopted at the end of 2022, imposing progressive quotas for women on management committees and boards of directors, reaching 40% by 2029. This is a welcome development that should help accelerate change within companies.

As responsible investors, we are committed to supporting the representation of women in our industry and the companies in which we invest.

With an executive committee made up of equal numbers of men and women, a female CEO and nearly 40% female staff – a commendable proportion in the asset management industry – we continue to encourage women to pursue careers in the industry. For example, we have introduced a scheme to help female employees develop and flourish, and we explicitly encourage the recruitment of women.

A healthy governance structure must be able to provide a balanced place for women, even in male-dominated sectors. Our analysis of companies therefore favours those that promote the advancement of women and have balanced representation at all hierarchical levels. Female managers also appear to be more sensitive to social and environmental issues. As members of the management team, they are more likely to promote the integration of sustainability into corporate strategy. Increasing the number of women in senior management is also a subject of regular engagement with the companies in which we invest.

Increasing the number of women in the workforce is a societal challenge. The mobilisation of investors can help change the landscape within their sector and within the companies in which they invest.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this document are those of the interviewee. LFDE shall not be held liable for these opinions in any way.

[1] Bank of America study, March 2021

[2] McKinsey study

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