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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.”

It is true that the finance world is still dominated by men.  According to a report by Catalyst Research, women make up 35.2% of all employees and 15.0% of executive/senior-level officials and managers at “Investment Banking and Securities Dealing” companies. Women also make up 40.5% of employees in “Securities, Commodity Contracts and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities” companies. However, although the real world of finance and business may be male dominated, the ratio has become far more balanced in recent years, while Student Investment Fund’s has not.

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%.

  • Bex

    Props to Erica and the Forum. Great article.

  • Greg12

    lets be real, cmc is a boys club. (unfortunately for the boys who like the girls)

  • Coady Smith

    Agreed.  Although the demographics of SIF will always be skewed as a result of there being a significantly higher number of male econ/finance students than female econ/ finance students, I think that the trends we’ve seen in recent years can in part be attributed to some sort of selection bias whereby qualified female applicants don’t apply, like you mention.  

  • ConcernedFemale

    I agree with many of the points brought out here. It think it’d be interesting to see the percent of male applicant’s acceptance rate vs. the percent of female’s acceptance rate. I have to say though, from first hand as a female interviewing for SIF, when this concern was raised to my interviewer, he simply dismissed any discrepancy in the male-to-female ratio as a self-selecting bias and NOTHING else. I have a tough time to believe that there is only one to two females per year for SIF based on JUST a self-selecting bias. 

    But even the self-selecting bias, and the “boys club attitude,” come hand in hand. For example, one of my female friend opted out of applying to SIF because a current male member went up to her and said “You have tits, we need more of those, you’ll get in.” Such blatant and rude objectification of females seems to insinuate that there is definitely an attitude that even the women they accept, they only accept because of their sex.  So obviously, if a woman feels like she’s only worth as much as her sex I don’t see why there wouldn’t be a self-selecting bias. 

    Obviously, that was a singular experience that I’ve encountered, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the stereotype of the “boys club attitude” does stem from somewhere. 

  • Food for thought

    Let the boys club be a boys club, start CMCs first all women run investment fund. Many alum would probably give quite a bit to get that fund started and then females on campus would not need to feel apprehensive about joining an investment club. The two clubs would probably be able to work symbiotically and I can imagine it being more fun for both groups. Having an additional club would only increase the amount of money cmc students as a whole have access to for investing so it seems as though everyone will benefit

    • More food

      That seems kind of ridiculous, especially given the principles of portfolio diversification, female vs male trading patterns from behavioral research, not to mention the importance of exposing all members to a variety of viewpoints and best simulating a future work environment made up of a diverse body of individuals.

      • Thought

        Don’t think I’ve ever heard of an investment company that solely employs a single sex. Let this article provoke both female applicants and male members in a constructive way.

        Current fund members, it’s undoubtable that there is a “boy’s club” view. While it may not be directly due to your own actions, maybe a conscious effort could be made to reduce such behavior, moving forward. I know many of the current members well, at the end of the day, I know all of you have a high sense of integrity and professionalism. Let us be proud to be a member of the SIF, in the same way we will be proud to work for our future institutions.

        Female applicants, don’t be put off by this article. Reading through, I believe that the intent was to bring attention and motivate more females to apply. This is further supported by the author of the article. Take comfort and be thankful that Erica, a comitteed and valued member of the SIF, took the time after graduation to write this article. As a current member of the fund, I can only say that if any female has any interest in finance, as this article tries to do, I encourage you to do so. Your admittance will not be based on whether, “you have tits,” but rather your merit and potential value to the fund. I promise you that if you are interested, your membership will be a rewarding experience. In knowledge, experiences, and friendships.

        If you say something smart, people will listen. Knowledge knows no gender.