Because of the research I’ve done on gender and investing, and, let’s face it, because I am an opinionated and often colorful commentator on all things investing, I get asked one question a lot.

What can we do to fix the gender imbalance in investing?

I think some people expect me to come up with a quick and pithy hack to fix the problem. Something akin to Ronco’s “Set it and forget it!”

It’s likely that some folks want me to utter the dreaded Q word (“quota”), although they should really know by now that’s just not how I roll.

A very, very few want me to say “there is no problem” so they can get back to other matters.

But almost no one really wants to hear the truthful answer to the question, which is this: “I’m not sure what the answer is.”

One thing I am positive about is that the answer is as complex as the problem, much of which is rooted in bias. Now this is not necessarily your grandparent’s or even your parent’s bias. Thankfully the days where consumers were likely to be treated to an ad like this are gone. 

But if you are human, you have bias. Period. And here’s how those biases (both men’s and women’s) might be impacting the number of women in investing:

It Starts Early – A study by Jane Stout, Nilanjana Dasgupta, Matthew Hunsinger, and Melissa A. McManus of UMass Amherst found one of the reasons women may not pursue math is rooted in bias. When faced with a male math professor, 11% of women attempted to answer questions posed to the class at the beginning of the semester. At the end of the semester, that number dropped to 7%. In contrast, female students only attempted to answer questions posed by a female professor 7% of the time at the beginning of the semester, but attempted to answer 46% of the time by the end of the semester. Similar trends were shown in other areas of the classroom experience, including after class requests for help, confidence and test taking ( With less than 1 in five math & science professors at top universities women, it is easy to see that the pipeline could narrow early.

The Pipeline Shrinks Further - In 2014, only 37% of MBA applicants were women, and of those, only 6% pursued investment banking compared with 11% men in that field. Also in 2014, 77% of investment analysts were men, who were 20.3% more likely to get an early analyst offer than women. A 2011 Vault study of the largest investment banks in the US found only 25% of staffers were women, 11% of executives were women and only 3% of CEOs at these firms were women per Catalyst. While it is difficult to single reason for these low numbers, culture, mentorship, appeal, and a lack of role models likely all come into play.

Hiring Hurdles – Early last year, Marc Andreessen took copious amounts of, um, “poop” for stating that he has no female partners at his firm because he’s tried to hire one and each time she turned him down. Obviously, there must be more than one qualified female applicant out there, so why isn’t a venture capital magnate like Andreessen seeing them? Part of may spring from the bias in the hiring process.

A study published in the American Psychological Association called, “Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality” showed that subtle word choice differences in job postings impacted who responded to those postings. For example, the following ad ( was re-written with feminine and masculine themed words. The feminine ad, perhaps not surprisingly, attracted more women applicants. Now think about the ways we tend to describe asset managers and perhaps it’s not so mysterious why the pipeline has historically sucked. 

Assuming that women do apply for an investment role they have to make it through the resume gauntlet. A recruitment firm created a resume and sent it to 1000 hiring managers. Half of the resumes were attributed to Simon and half were attributed to Susan. At large firms, Simon was preferred over Susan 62% to 56%. Women hiring managers felt Susan matched 14 of 20 job attributes, while Simon matched six, and male hiring managers felt exactly the opposite. ( The upshot? Bias, bias everywhere.

Promotional Considerations – If women do enter the investment arena, they then still have to work their way to the top. Even workplaces like Barclays Capital, who just shared they now employ more women than men (51% to 49%) struggle when it comes to women in the C-suite: 80% of top level positions at Barclays are held by men. The list of potential reasons for this are endless, but a great list can be found in this article,, which details the biases women face when climbing the corporate ladder. Chief among them? Mommy track, networking opportunities, participation in meetings (air time, interruptions), expressing displeasure, etc.

At the end of the day, it is supremely difficult to find a simple fix to these issues. Unconscious bias is, in a way, more difficult to deter because it’s, well, unconscious. These behavioral patterns are pretty inaccessible to the conscious mind and therefore can be very difficult to change.

However, for those firms that are looking to improve their diversity metrics, or those investors who are looking to improve their ratio of male to female money managers, it can be helpful to at least recognize where some of the issues arise and to take steps to guard against the biases where we can. For example, there is software that can create “gender neutral” job postings. Blind resumes can help avoid the Simon-Susan conundrum. Having mixed teams of interviewers can help to balance male and female hiring and promotion biases. Groups like Rock the Street Wall Street ( and Girls Who Invest (http://www.girlswhoinvest.orgcan help young women overcome their own biases towards math and finance. Certainly, there are a lot of changes required, but they could potentially add up to better gender diversity over time. 

To be clear, no woman I know is asking for special treatment when it comes to hiring of any kind (employment, fund selection, etc.). Every single woman with whom I speak wants to earn their place in investment management and is willing to get scrappy when required. But, in the immortal words of Paul Simon, women do want to know that the “cross is in the ballpark.” Until we can all figure out how to mitigate some of our biases, that may be hard to ensure. 

Sources: In addition to those cited throughout - Graduate Management Admissions Council, Universum,

AuthorMeredith Jones

As y’all recover from the excesses of fried turkeys, stuffed stockings, too much ‘nog and an overdose of family time, it seems like a good time to catch up on some light reading. So, in case you missed them, here are my 2015 blogs arranged by topic so you can sneak in some snark before you ring in the New Year.

Happy reading and best wishes for a joyous, profitable, and humorous 2016.

Happy Holidays from MJ Alts!

Happy Holidays from MJ Alts!








What do you want to read about in 2016? List topics you enjoy or would like to see more of in the comments section below.

In the meantime, gird your loins for the blog that always parties like it’s 1999, even when it’s 2016.

And please follow me on Twitter (@MJ_Meredith_J) for daily doses of research, salt and snark. 

I’m a data nerd. I know it. You know it. It’s not like it’s a big secret. My name is Meredith Jones, and I let my geek flag fly.

So it’s no wonder that my nerdy spidey senses tingled late last week and early this week with the release of two new hedge fund studies. The first was eVestment Alliance’s look at small and young funds - version 2.0 of the emerging manager study I first launched at PerTrac in 2006. The second study, authored by hedge fund academic heavy weights Andrew Lo, Peter Lee and Mila Getmansky, looks at the impact of various database biases on aggregate hedge fund performance.

Neither paint a particularly bright picture of the overall hedge fund landscape.

So why aren’t I, Certified Data Nerd and long-time research of hedge funds, rolling around on the floor in piles of printed copies of each study right now? Because, in addition to being a total geek when it comes to a good pile of data, I’m also a big ol’ skeptic, and never moreso than when it comes to hedge fund data.

Here’s the thing, y’all. Hedge fund data is dirty. Actually, maybe even make that filthy. It's "make my momma  want to slap me" dirty. Which is why it is critical to understand exactly what it is you may be looking at before jumping to any portfolio-altering conclusions. Some considerations:

One of the reasons I imagine Lo et al undertook their latest study was to show just how dirty hedge fund data is. They looked at backfill bias and survivor bias primarily, within the Lipper Tass database specifically. Their conclusion? When you adjust for both biases, the annualized mean return of hedge funds goes from 12.6% to 6.3%.


However, let’s consider the following:

No hedge fund database contains the entirety of the hedge fund universe. A 2010, comprehensive study of the hedge fund universe (again, that I completed for PerTrac) showed that 18,450 funds reported performance in 2009. Generally speaking, hedge fund databases cover roughly 7,500 or fewer “live” hedge funds. So, no matter what database you use, there is sample bias from the get go.

And while backfill bias and survivor bias do exist, so does participation bias.

Because a fund’s main motivation to participate in a hedge fund database is marketing, if a fund does particularly poorly (survivor bias) or particularly well (participation bias) it may stop reporting or it may never report. For example, of the top ten funds identified by Barron’s in 2014, three don’t report to Lipper Tass, two are listed as dead, two more aren’t reporting current data and three do report and are current. This could be sample bias or it could be participation bias. Hell, I suppose it could be survivor bias in some way. In any case, it does show that performance gleaned from hedge fund databases could be artificially low, not just artificially high.

As for emerging manager studies – they run into a totally different bias – one I’ll call barbell bias.

Unfortunately, due to wildly unbalanced asset flows over the last five years towards large funds, 85% of all hedge funds now manage less than $250 million. More than 50% of funds manage less than $100 million. Indeed, the hedge fund industry looks a little bit like this:

Some of you may remember my “Fun With Dots” blog from a few months ago. Using that same concept (each dot represents a hedge fund, each block has 100 dots and each line 1,000 dots, for a total of 10,000 dots, or funds) the Emerging vs. Emerged universe looks like this: 

(c) MJ Alts

(c) MJ Alts

What’s interesting about this is, at least mathematically speaking, every fund in the large and mid sized category could have been outperformed by a smaller fund counterpart, but because of the muting effect that comes from having such a large bucket of small funds, the small fund category could still underperform.

Now, of course, I still found both studies to be wildly interesting and I recommend reading both. Again: Nerd. I also know that people have poked at my studies over the years as well, which, frankly, they should. Part of the joy of being a research nerd is having to defend your methodology. In addition, most people do the best they can with the data they’ve got, but it’s not for nothing that Mark Twain stated there are “Lies, damn lies and statistics."

What I am saying is this: Take all studies with a grain of salt. Yes, even mine. 

In hedge funds - perhaps more than anywhere else, your mileage may vary. You may have small funds that kicked the pants off of every large fund out there. Your large funds may have outperformed your emerging portfolio. You may have gotten closer to 12% than 6% across your hedge fund universe (or vice versa). Part of the performance divergence may come from the fact that it’s hard to even know what the MPG estimates should be in the first place, which is why it’s critical to come up with your own return targets and expectations and measure funds against those indicators and not industry “standards.” 

Sources: Barron's, CNBC, Bloomberg, LipperTass, MJ Alts, PerTrac, eVestment Alliance

AuthorMeredith Jones

When most people think about math, they don’t necessarily think about visual aids. They think about numbers. They think about symbols. They may even think, “Oh crap, I hated math in high school.” Even if you are in the last camp, read on. I promise what follows is painless, although you may be tested on it later.

A lot of times, what’s problematic for people about math is that picturing and therefore connecting with what we’re talking about, particularly when dealing with large numbers, can be difficult. For example, I talk endlessly about the inequities in the hedge fund industry, and yet while some folks hear it, I’m not sure how many people “get it.” So today, we’re going to “connect the dots” to visualize what is going on in hedge fund land.

First, meet The Dot Fund, LLC. 


This dot represents a single, average hedge fund. The fund probably has a pitch book that states its competitive advantage is its "fundamental bottoms up research." This makes me want to shake the Dot Fund. But I digress.

Now, most folks estimate that the hedge fund universe contains 10,000 funds, so here are 10,000 dots. Each smaller square is 10 dots by 10 dots, for a total of 100 dots, and there are 10 rows of 10 squares. Y’all can count them if you want to – I did and gave myself a wicked migraine – but this giant square of dots is pretty representative of the total size of the hedge fund universe.

The Hedge Fund Universe

10000 HFs.png

Of course, the hedge fund universe isn’t as homogenous as my rows of dots, so let’s look at some of the sub-categories of funds. The blue dots below represent the “Billion Dollar Club” hedge funds within the universe. That is not a ton of dots.

The Billion Dollar Club Hedge Funds

And here are the Emerging Managers, as defined by many pension and institutional investors as having less than $1 billion in assets under management. Note: That’s a helluva lot of blue dots.

Institutionally Defined “Emerging Managers”

This is the universe of managers with less than $100 million under management, or what I would call the “honestly emerging managers.”

Managers With Less Than $100m AUM

This dot matrix represents the average number of hedge funds that close in any given year. It doesn’t look quite as dire as the numbers do in print...

Annual Hedge Fund Closures

Finally, here are the women (stereotypically in pink) and minority owned (in blue) funds that I estimate exist today.

Diversity Hedge Funds

While estimates of capital inflows vary, eVestment suggests roughly $80 billion in asset flows for 2014, while HFR posits $88 billion. Because the numbers are fairly close, I'm using HFR, but the visual wouldn't be vastly different if I used another vendor's estimate. Here is the HFR estimate of $88 billion in asset flows represented as 1 dot per $1 billion.

2014 Estimated Asset Flows into Hedge Funds

Now, here is the rough amount of those assets (in blue) that went to the Billion Dollar Club hedge funds (also in blue).

Fund Flows Into Large Hedge Funds

And here is the rough proportion of those assets that went to everyone else.

Fund Flows Into Emerging Hedge Funds

Not a pretty picture, eh?

So, what’s the point of my dotty post? While I think we all have read about the bifurcation of the hedge fund industry into assets under management “haves” and “haves nots,” I’m not sure everyone has actually grasped what’s going on. I’m told that a picture is worth a 1,000 words, so maybe this will help it sink in. Not investing in a more diverse group of managers creates a very real risk of stifling innovation and compromising overall industry and individual returns. It also creates a lot of concentration risk - if a Billion Dollar Club fund fails, a large number of investors and a huge amount of assets could be at risk.

And the kick in the pants? We know this pattern isn't the most profitable. A recent study showed pension consultants underperformed all investment options by an average of 1.12% per year from 1999-2011, due largely to focusing on the largest funds and other "soft factors." And lest you think 1.12% sounds small, let me illustrate that for you, too. Here are one million dots, where each dot represents a dollar invested. The blue dots are the cash returns over time that were missed by not taking a more differentiated approach. Ouch

Cash Return Differential 1999-2011

Luckily, the cure is simple. Commit to connecting with different and more diverse dots in 2014.

Sources: HFR, eVestment, MJ Alts, Value Walk, "Picking Winners? Investment Consultants' Recommendations of Fund Managers" by Jenkinson, Jones (no relation) and Martinez.

William Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” believing, as many do, that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But on this point I must take issue with dear William and say instead that I think names have power. Perhaps this notion springs from being reared on the tale of Rumplestilskin or maybe from teenage readings of The Hobbit. It could be from my more recent forays into Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels.

I know, I know - I never said I wasn’t a nerd.

Regardless of the origins of my belief, my theory was, in a way, proven earlier this week, when the New York Times ran a piece by Justin Wolfers entitled “Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John.” In it, the writer created what he called a “Glass Ceiling Index” that looked at the ratio of men named John, Robert, William or James running companies in the S&P 1500 versus the number of women in the same role. His conclusion? For every one woman at the helm of a large company, there are four men named John, Robert, William or James.

To be clear: That’s not just one woman to every four generic men. That’s one woman for every four specifically-named men.

Wolfers’ study was inspired by an Ernst & Young report that looked at the ratio of women board members to men with the same ubiquitous monikers. E&Y found that for every woman (with any name) on a board, there were 1.03 men named John, Robert, William or James.

The New York Times article further showed that there are 2.17 Senate Republicans of the John-Bob-Will-Jim persuasion for every female senate republican, and 1.12 men with those names for every one female economics professor.

While all of that is certainly a sign that the more things change, the more they stay the same, it made me think about the financial world and our own glass ceiling.

In 17 years in finance, I have never once waited in line for the bathroom at a hedge fund or other investment conference. While telling, that’s certainly not a scientific measure of progress towards even moderate gender balance in finance. As a result, I decided it would be interesting to construct a more concrete measure of the fund management glass ceiling. After hours of looking through hedge fund & private equity mogul names like Kenneth, David, James, John, Robert, and William, I started referring to my creation as the “Jim-Bob Ratio,” as a good Southern girl should.

I looked at the 100 largest hedge funds, excluded six banks and large fund conglomerates that are not your typical “cult of personality” hedge fund shops, created a spreadsheet of hedge fund managers/founders/stud ducks and determined that the hedge fund industry has a whopping 11 fund moguls named John, Robert, William and James for every one woman fund manager. There was a 4:1 ratio just for Johns, and 3:1 for guys named Bill.

(c) MJ Alts

(c) MJ Alts

And even those ratios were generous: I counted Leda Braga separately from Blue Crest in my total, even though her fund was not discretely listed at the time of the 2014 list.

I also looked at the monikers of the “grand quesos” at the 20 largest private equity firms. There are currently three Williams, two Johns (or Jon) and one James versus zero large firm female private equity senior leadership.

Of course, you may be saying it’s unfair to look at only the largest funds, but I doubt the ratio improves a great deal as we go down the AUM food chain. There are currently only 125 female run hedge funds in a universe of 10,000 funds. That gives an 80:1 male to female fund ratio before we start sifting through names. In private equity and venture capital, we know from reading Forbes that women comprise only 11.8% (including non-investment executives) and 8.5% of partners, respectively. Therefore, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that the alternative investment industry’s Jim-Bob Ratio could fall below 4:1 even within larger samples. Ugh. One more reason for folks to say the S&P outperformed.

Now, before everyone gets their knickers in a twist, I should point out that I am vehemently NOT anti-male fund manager. The gentlemen on those lists have been wildly successful overall, and I in no way wish to or could diminish their performance and business accomplishments. And for those that are also wondering, I am also just as disappointed at the small (read virtually non-existent) racial diversity ratio on those lists as well. 

What I am, however, as regular readers of my blogs know, is a huge proponent for diversity (fund size, gender, race, strategy, fund age, etc.) in investing and a bit of a fan of the underdog. Diversity of strategies, instruments, and liquidity are all keys to building a successful portfolio if you ask me. And, perhaps even more importantly, you need diversity of thinking, or cognitive alpha, which seems like it could be in short supply when we look across the fund management landscape. Similar backgrounds, similar stories, and similar names could lead to similar performance and similar volatility profiles, dontcha think? While correlation can be your friend when the markets are trending up, it is rarely your bestie when the tables turn. And if you don’t have portfolio managers who think differently, are you ever truly diversified or uncorrelated?

In the coming months and years, I’d like to see the alternative investment industry specifically, and the investment industry in general, actively attempt to lower our Jim-Bob Ratio. And luckily, unlike the equity markets, there seems to be only one way for us to go from here. 

Sources include: Institutional Investor Alpha magazine, Business Insider, industry knowledge and a fair amount of tedious internet GTS (er, Google That Stuff) time. 

In case you missed any of my snappy, snarky blogs in 2014, here is a quick reference guide (by topic) so you can catch up while you gear up for 2015. My blog will return with new content next Tuesday – starting with my "New Year’s Resolutions for Managers and Investors."

“How To” Marketing Blogs


General Alternative Investing

 “The Truth About” Animated Blogs – Debunking Hedge Fund Myths

Diversity Investing

Private Equity and Venture Capital

Emerging Managers

A few recent articles got me thinking about diversity vs diversification:

·      June 5 -  Forbes reported that 15 large hedge funds were all in the same stock.

·      June 29 – The Financial Times reported on the alarmingly high correlation of hedge funds to the equity markets (0.93).

·      July 14 – Preqin study shows a mere 500 hedge funds control 90% or more of assets.

In essence, we’ve likely got a bunch of investors concentrated in a very few hedge funds that are highly correlated to the equity markets and who own the same stocks. Picture me making Macaulay Culkin’s face in “Home Alone.”

Diversification is a tricky thing. Investopedia describes it simply as a “risk management technique that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio.” But maybe we need to think of diversification on a deeper level.

Homogeneous groups tend to think alike. They also tend to overestimate their problem solving skills and consider a narrower range of information.

They may also be less open to new ideas. The universe of hedge funds contains more than 10,000 funds. At the present time, there are fewer than 500 hedge funds managed by women and minorities. If you look in the dictionary under “homogenous” I bet there may actually be an illustrative photo taken at a hedge fund conference.

So I’d like to suggest that investors expand their definition of diversification. Maybe it’s not all about the asset allocation mix of stocks, bonds, futures, real estate and other asset classes. Perhaps it’s not even the number of funds you invest in or the mix of strategies you have. Maybe, just maybe, diversification includes the way in which the money managers collect, interpret and evaluate market data and the cognitive alpha they create for you.

You don’t think there’s a difference?

Talk to some women and minority managers about what they own. You might be surprised at how far their portfolios are off the beaten path. And then look at what the indices tell you. The HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index has produced a year-to-date net return of 1.77% through June. The HFRX Diversity Index has produced a 3.61% net return through the same period.

So the next time you’re meeting with a potential (or existing) hedge fund investment, look around the room. If you see a room filled with Matrix-esque Smith replications, you might want to go further down the rabbit hole to think about how market and company information is gathered, processed and acted upon by the fund. What does the fund own and how do those underlying portfolio positions interact with your other funds holdings? Are you really diversified or just in a lot of funds?

Or, of course, you can always take the blue pill.