The Student Investment Fund is a unique part of the CMC extracurricular world. The Fund is composed of around 40 members who meet once a week to present and pitch potential investments for their portion of CMC’s endowment. The fund has grown rapidly since its formation, increasing its membership from 25 to 40+ and its capital from $170,000 to $340,000.
What has not grown, however, is the percentage of female members of the fund.
In the spring of 2009, as a new member of the fund I looked up to the leaders of the fund, Nicholas Sparks and Kyle Casella, as I searched for an understanding of financial markets. I had recently decided to be a Economics and Middle Eastern Studies dual major, and I saw the Student Investment Fund as an opportunity to apply my interest in international and emerging markets to a real business — investing. I was lucky enough to have Nick and Kyle as mentors, but what I began to realize was that there were no female leaders and very few female members.
Over the last three years we still have not seen a female in any C-Level position.
The admissions process into the Student Investment Fund is very straightforward; it requires a cover letter, resume and then an interview. Interviews are conducted in both the spring and fall and are advertised via email and the Financial Economics Institute. Students are admitted based on academic performance, leadership and demonstrated interest in investing.
Despite the simplicity of this process, the Student Investment Fund has only admitted two new women for the fund next year. As a result the fund will have 5 women, composing 8% of the total fund. To put this in context, 25% of Robert Day Scholars are women. Why does the Student Investment Fund seem to have such an unbalanced population?
With 92% male membership, the Fund has an image as a “boy’s club.” This image deters potential female applicants, which unfortunately feeds into itself: fewer female members leads to a stronger “boy’s club” image, which in turn leads to fewer women applying.
Avery Holland ’12, a recent graduate who majored in Economics with a finance sequence, chose not to apply because “although, I was not directly interested in investing, ultimately that compounded with the ‘bro-iness’ of the fund I choose not to apply.”
Dana Staley ’12, this year’s managing director of Risk Management for the fund, sympathized with potential members saying: “I understand why people and women in particular are intimidated by the reputation of the fund and its members.” However, she dismissed the notion that the fund does not welcome its female members: “Once you are in the fund, it is all about learning.”
Staley also emphasized that a major deciding factor in her application was a strong relationship with senior leaders of the Fund. The stigma surrounding SIF is a challenge and deterrent for many female applicants who do not have an inside look into the fund through elder members.
Senior leadership welcomes female applicants. “I hope to get more female applicants and would like to dispel the notion that we are a ‘boys club,’ said current CFO Viken Douzdjian ’13. “I urge all qualified women interested in finance to apply to the Student Investment Fund.”
CMC and the Student Investment Fund have the chance to encourage female participation and leadership in a neutral and unbiased environment. Encouraging female participation through mentor-mentee programs, partnering with female professors such as Professor Lisa Meulbrook and Professor Heather Antecol, would be very positive for women’s leadership on campus. But the financial benefits to the fund could also be great. A recent study by Barclays Capital and Ledbury Research found that “women were more likely to make money as investors in the financial markets, mostly because they didn’t take as many risks as men.” The findings in this research, which is repeated in numerous other studies, suggest that a more balanced fund would increase returns — an obvious goal for any endowment fund.
Increasing the number of qualified female applicants should be a serious goal of SIF’s new management. There ought to be a focus on targeting female applicants through outreach by senior management and an effort by the fund’s members to alter the fund’s image in the community by welcoming more female speakers and faculty. The Student Investment Fund is one of the few organizations on campus that is truly a hub of real world application based learning. There is no reason the representation of women should be a mere 8%.