Last year was fairly dismal for the hedge fund industry, almost any way you slice it.
But according to a new report, one sector did remarkably well: hedge funds managed by women.
An index from the professional services firm Rothstein Kass showed that female hedge fund managers produced a return of 8.95 percent through the third quarter of 2012. By contrast, the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index, released by Hedge Fund Research, logged a 2.69 percent net return through September.
Rothstein Kass’s latest annual survey of women in alternative investments, to be released on Thursday, found that female managers had a strong track record of returns. The report, reflecting the responses of 366 senior women in the alternative investment industry, illustrates a persistent gender disparity on Wall Street while highlighting the achievements of successful women.
Female financiers can have particular advantages over their male counterparts, including being more risk-averse and better able to avoid volatility, the report says. The Rothstein Kass hedge fund index, based on 67 hedge funds with female owners or managers, may be a case in point.
“Investing in these types of funds is a smart business decision, rather than one that just feels good,” Meredith Jones, a director at Rothstein Kass and the author of the report, said in a statement.
But such funds comprise a minority. Only 16 percent of the survey respondents said their firms were owned or managed by women. Of the respondents from hedge funds, 16.8 percent fell into this category, while 13 percent of those in venture capital and 12 percent of those in private equity said women were in charge.
The survey found that 18 percent of the firms surveyed had female chief investment officers, and 16 percent had chief executives who were women.
The reasons for the gap? Women in the alternative investment industry lack opportunities to prove themselves, and some become discouraged, the respondents said. “Old boys’ club” was a phrase that multiple respondents used.
“Alternative investment industry events are one of the few places outside of certain sporting events where you are more likely to see a line outside the men’s room than the ladies’ room,” the report says.
Still, 59 percent of the women surveyed said they believed there would be more women in their industry in 2013 and beyond. And more fund start-ups will be run by women, 45 percent of the respondents said.
For the women who have found success, mentoring the next generation is crucial, said Kelly Easterling, an audit principal at Rothstein Kass who contributed to the report.
“We all have a responsibility as women,” she said, “to go out and mentor other women and encourage them to continue in the industry.”