Why women’s investment matters
If women invested at the same rate as men, there would be at least an extra:
We found that if women invested at the same rate as men, there would be at least an extra $3.22 trillion 3 of assets under management from private individuals today. Perhaps more important, our research also reveals that women are more likely to make investments that have positive social and environmental impacts, meaning that there would be an influx of $1.87 trillion 4 of additional capital into Responsible Investment if women invested at the same rate as men.
The value of investments can fall. Investors may not get back the amount invested.
Three key barriers to higher levels of female participation in investing:
Global Head of Investment Management
In order to understand why women don’t invest at the same rate as men, and to explore what we in the industry can do to raise levels of female participation, we interviewed 8,000 men and women worldwide.
Our research reveals that the investment industry must tackle three key investment barriers to encourage more women to invest:
The investment industry is failing to reach, appeal to, and engage women to the same degree as men. Globally, as few as one in 10 women feel they fully understand investing, and less than a third of women (28%) feel confident about investing some of their money.
Women’s Investment Confidence Map
Confidence surges among women in young, emerging markets
Such disparity in confidence levels may be partly due to the demographics of these markets. India and Brazil have relatively young populations, and our data suggests that younger women are more engaged with investing: 60% of women aged 18 to 30, for example, are open to investing or have invested in the past, compared with 45% of women over 50.
In addition, different levels of discussion and education may also play a part. In India—where confidence levels are highest—our data shows that there are more conversations about investment taking place. Half of the Indian women in the study, for example, say that their parents educated them on investing, compared with an average of just 32% of women across all markets and just 12% in Japan, where levels of investment confidence are lowest.
On average and globally, women believe they need $4,092 of disposable income each month—almost $50,000 per year—before they would consider investing any of it. In the US, for example, on average women believe that they need over $6,000 of monthly disposable income—just over $72,000 per year—before they can start investing.
Clearly, this is unrealistic, especially given the fact that over a quarter of women (27%) describe their financial health as poor or very poor. For the investment industry, overcoming this misconception and explaining that only a small amount of money is needed to start investing should be a key focus.
The average amount of monthly disposable income women think they need to start investing
Overcoming the income hurdle
While investment offers potential for significant return—and can protect capital from the eroding effects of inflation—capital is at risk. However, misperceptions of the level of this risk are deterring women from investing. Work needs to be done by the industry to better communicate the risks and rewards of investments—and in the context of missed potential opportunities from not investing to bring women into an investment dialogue that is both fair and accurate. For example, 45% of women say that investing money in the stock market—either directly or through a fund—is too risky for them. Just 9% of women say that they have a high or very high level of risk tolerance when it comes to investing. Almost half of women (49%) have a moderate risk tolerance and 42% have low risk tolerance.
What then could encourage more women to invest? Our study shows that women across the world are motivated by the impact that their investments could have. More than half of women (55%), for example, would invest (or invest more) if the impact of their investment aligned with their personal values, and 53% would invest (or invest more) if the investment fund had a clear goal or purpose for good. Two-thirds of women who currently invest (66%) try to invest in companies they like and that support their personal values.
This drive to align investments with values seems to be stronger among those with children: three-quarters of parents—both men and women—who currently invest say that they prefer to invest in companies that support their personal values, compared with 59% of adults who do not have children.
Looking beyond return
Measuring the impact of
investments can be
difficult, and there is no
single way of doing it,
although there are many
different approaches to
responsible investing and
frameworks, ranging from
simply excluding investments
that are harmful to actively
selecting investments for
the specific good that they
Interest in impact investing has been growing rapidly in recent years. According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), this particular market is now worth more than $700 billion.
The Investment Impact Map
Younger women strive to combine purpose with profit
Investment values: younger women vs. older men
It is important to me to choose investments that:
Making investing more accessible to women isn’t just about ensuring they have the
right technology, but also inclusively equipping everyone with the knowledge,
skills, and fostering the motivation to engage with investing. This requires a
significant cultural shift within the industry—not only in the way that products
are developed and marketed but also in the diversity of the investment industry
We asked asset managers – representing nearly $60 trillion of assets under management – for their insights on the key challenges for gender-inclusive investment and for their thoughts on how the industry can change to encourage more women to invest. Their answers reveal the extent to which the investment industry is currently oriented toward male customers and help identify ways in which financial products and messaging could be reshaped to attract and engage more women.
An industry with men in mind
Currently, nearly nine in 10 asset managers (86%) admit that their default investment customer is a man, and three-quarters of asset managers (73%) state that their organization’s investment products are primarily aimed at men, suggesting that they focus on the benefits and features that generally appeal more to men than women.
As a result, potential female investors are met with language, imagery and messaging targeted mainly at a male customer. This often includes the use of high-risk metaphors, such as those used in extreme sports, and the concept of high performance and achievement as a shorthand for investment success.
The answer to engaging women
in investment isn’t found in
outdated gimmicks and
doesn’t require, for
example, the increased use
of the color pink—rather,
it’s about forming a
connection by understanding
what motivates women to
invest and how they like to
If the industry can re-think the language around investing, there’s a significant opportunity to affect how much women invest: 37% of women said that if investment language were easier to understand, it would influence them to invest, or to invest more than they currently do. However, the key takeaway is that the language which describes financial products should not only be simpler, and avoid jargon, but also be more clearly aligned to women’s long-term goals and values.
As increasing health standards mean that today’s women need to plan for what might be a 100-year lifespan, women are motivated to invest by thinking of their long-term financial prosperity, independence, and the impact their investments can have. Products packaged to meet these needs and address these interests, clearly communicated in straightforward language, should go a long way to increasing women’s investment.
Building an inclusive investment industry
A key step in fostering
inclusive investment is
creating a more diverse and
industry. While some
progress has been made,
asset management continues
to be a male-dominated
industry, with significantly
fewer female fund managers
and investment analysts.
Half of the asset managers
participating in our study
told us that just 10% or
less of their organization’s
fund managers and investment
analysts are women. This may
be contributing to the
industry’s challenges in
understanding and engaging
female customers and, in
turn, affecting women’s
confidence in trusting an
industry with their money
when the women are
The benefits of attracting more female talent into the industry range from greater product innovation to encouraging more women to invest. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of asset managers believe the investment industry would be able to attract more women to invest if the industry had more female fund managers.
The biggest impact may be on younger age groups in the early stages of their investment journey. Three in 10 (29%) women under the age of 30 who already invest said that having a female financial advisor would influence them to invest more than they currently do, compared with 16% of those over 50 who already invest—perhaps because those over 50 have had time to resign themselves to the male-oriented nature of the industry.
In addition, fostering a more diverse talent pipeline for the industry will need to start early, making diverse role models visible to children and students, in their formative years. It could be that a concerted focus on inclusive investment could close the gender-investment gap and attract more women into the investment profession.
What Women Want:
Investing in Independence
Responsible investing allows women to champion causes they believe in effectively by using their money to directly help reach social and environmental goals. A greater focus on this type of messaging and on the wider benefits of investing should help to attract more women.
Greater diversity within the industry should also help to achieve higher levels of female participation and ultimately investment; but in order for a meaningful industry shift to take place, both women and men will need to help drive change.
If we all work together, we can achieve the goal of making investment more inclusive, for the benefit of all.
As part of a company that touches every part of the investment cycle – we believe we are in a strong position to make a difference. We can effect change at the grassroots through early engagement about money via our partnership with international group, Inspiring Girls. We can examine how to inspire the c20,000 women in our own organization to participate and invest more. We will review our approach and how we can engage with women better and work with intermediaries and the wider industry to make a difference and set clear targets for progress.
5. Our expert advisory panel
Investing does involve risk, of course, but the perception that investing always has to be incredibly high-stakes is not the case.
Iona Bain is a Scottish-born musician turned financial journalist who has become the UK’s go-to voice on millennial money. She founded the pioneering Young Money Blog in 2011, and has since gone on to become an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, speaker and author specializing in personal finance. She is also the author of Own It! How Our Generation Can Invest Our Way to a Better Future.
Some countries, such as India, have comparatively higher levels of investment participation among women, as investment can be seen as a way of securing their family’s future.
Farmida Bi, CBE, has been EMEA chair at Norton Rose Fulbright since May 2018. With more than 25 years of experience in capital markets and Islamic finance transactions, she is also the firm’s European head of Islamic Finance. In addition, she has worked in the London offices of other leading US- and UK-based firms, expanding her knowledge across the sector, and has been cited as one of the most influential women in European finance in recent years.
A better balance of genders in the industry would encourage a more diverse range of people to invest and increase innovation and accessibility.
Cheryl Chong is the co-founder of The Social Co: a team of passionate individuals who believe that young people are important catalysts in creating social impact. Cheryl is also a board member and advisor to a few non-profit organizations, and she is a chartered accountant with a background in investments.
The industry needs to communicate the fact that investing is now much more accessible so that public perceptions catch up with reality and investing isn’t seen as the preserve of the very rich.
Gemma Godfrey is a non-executive director and former entrepreneur. Previously head of investment strategy at wealth manager Brooks Macdonald, Gemma went on to establish an FCA-authorized digital investing service, which was acquired by a global insurance company. She now works as a board advisor for various businesses. Gemma was also an advisor to the UK government on its 10-year strategy to improve the nation’s financial well-being.
The language is quite technical and jargony—it’s that risk concept—the very word ‘risk’ is wrong—it isn’t risk, risk is doing something silly. That will put women off whatever age they are.
Founder and managing director of Boring Money, Holly Mackay has 20 years of experience in the investment industry. Boring Money is an independent business that has been set up to increase the inclusivity of the investment industry, helping people without PhDs in finance to make smart investment decisions quickly and painlessly.
We need to be promoting the message that ‘The system has not served you, but you need to take ownership and make it work for you, your situation and your aspirations.’
Author of The Broke and Beautiful Life, Stefanie O’Connell is a nationally recognized millennial money expert who has helped thousands of young professionals get more from their money. Stefanie’s work and advice has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, ABC World News, Fox Business and Bloomberg.
Download the report
The Pathway to Inclusive Investment
Man Bites Dog
Man Bites Dog is an award-winning global thought leadership consultancy based in the UK, specializing in compelling content, campaigns and communications to tell their clients’ stories.
Is a global B2B research specialist with first-rate experience across all verticals and markets. Coleman Parkes Research complies with the rules and regulations set by the MRS Code of Conduct (2010) which is based upon the ESOMAR principles.
For nearly 30 years, Cerulli has been at the forefront of the financial services industry, delivering ground-breaking global market research through the use of data.
Glossary – key terms
Saving: Saving involves putting your money into cash products, such as a savings account in a bank or building society. Compared to investing, saving typically results in a lower return (i.e., your money does not really grow), but it involves virtually no risk (i.e., the chance that you will lose your money is very small).
Investing: Investing involves selecting particular assets with the expectation that there should be a higher return. It is also about putting money away for the future, but it usually involves the expectation of a higher return (i.e., your money increasing in value) in exchange for taking on more risk (i.e., the chance of losing your money is higher). Money is usually invested in stocks, funds, or bonds, where you could get more or less than you originally put in.
Impact Investing: Impact investing is an investment strategy that aims to generate specific beneficial social or environmental effects in addition to financial gains. Impact investments may take the form of numerous asset classes and may result in many specific outcomes. The point of impact investing is to use money and investment capital for positive social results.
Active Ownership: is the use of the rights and position of ownership to influence the activities or behaviour of investee companies.
Inflation: Inflation is the decline of purchasing power of a given currency over time. A quantitative estimate of the rate at which the decline in purchasing power occurs can be reflected in the increase of an average price level of a basket of selected goods and services in an economy over some period of time. The rise in the general level of prices, often expressed as a percentage, means that a unit of currency effectively buys less than it did in prior periods.
ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Criteria: A set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments.
- The 16 markets included in the study were: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden), Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.
- As at Q2 2021. All dollar currencies in report are US$.
- This calculation was made using the data from the research on the average volumes of investments held by men and women to find the difference. We then used data from Cerulli to calculate the size of the retail investment market in each of the geographies within the study and applied the difference between male and female investment volumes to that number to show how much more investment would be available if female investment volumes matched male. This assumes the numbers of male and female investors are the same. As there are typically more male investors than female, the amount to be gained could be assumed to be even higher than the one shown, i.e., “at least” $3.22 trillion.
- Our research also provided data on the share of investments made by men and women that are responsible – i.e. investments that are qualified according to either their positive impact on society and the planet or at least their absence of a negative impact. The average share of female investments that are responsible was then applied to the overall uptick in investment volumes to reveal the percentage of those investments that can be expected to be responsible.
- Accurate as of the financial year 2021-2022.
- Pound to dollar conversion accurate as of October 25, 2021.
- DQYDJ S&P 500 Periodic Reinvestment Calculator https://dqydj.com/sp-500-periodic-reinvestment-calculator-dividends
- As at 11 June 2020
The value of investments can fall. Investors may not get back the amount invested.
Any views and opinions are those of the author, unless otherwise noted and is not investment advice.
This is not investment research or a research recommendation for regulatory purposes.
ID: 813150. Expiry 31/12/2022