It is an exciting time in the financial services industry for women. Recently, two firms—Morgan Stanley and Ellevest—made significant strides in the fight to close the gender gap in investing: Morgan Stanley implemented a framework that embraces “female-friendly” investment approaches, and Ellevest raised $9 million in funding.
With the recent addition of a Gender Diversity Tool Kit to its Investing with Impact platform, Morgan Stanley encourages clients to vote with their dollars for equal female leadership in business, a practice that in addition to being socially equitable also has proven lucrative: A recent Morgan Stanley Research Study found that in the past five years, companies with greater gender diversity records produced slightly higher returns and lower volatility than comparable less gender-diverse peers. The new tool kit offers a framework for the firm’s advisors to help investors integrate gender diversity into their investment portfolios. Available to individual and institutional clients, this structure allows investors to minimize exposure to companies with substandard gender diversity records and use a host of criteria to pinpoint companies that are leaders in the fight against gender inequality, such as funds focused on maternal healthcare solutions, investments in companies with greater representation of women in senior leadership roles and funds that support women entrepreneurs.
With its Gender Diversity Tool Kit and reputation as leading financial institution, Morgan Stanley has a significant role to play in improving gender inequality in the industry. While many brokerages throughout the industry commendably incorporate “socially conscious” and “socially responsible” categories into their investment screener criteria, Morgan Stanley stands out as the first to add search options that specifically promote gender diversity, and if this proves successful for investors, will become the standard for other firms to model themselves after.
Ellevest, a goal-based automated investment platform that is targeted at women and that employs women-centric data, closed its latest round of funding after raising $9 million from a group of A-list female funders, including Venus Williams, a star tennis athlete and leading women’s rights activist who has fought to close the gender pay gap in the sport; Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015; and Sonja Perkins, founder of Broadway Angels. Having a strong backing from a group of successful, well-known women helps to raise awareness for the firm’s goal of helping women be financially prepared as well as helps attract new clients, both of especially after SheCapital, another robo-advisor for women, folded in July after failing to attract enough investors. We are unsurprised at Ellevest’s growth, as we believe its unique, goal-based investing approach backed by women-centric data makes a strong appeal to female investors.
Hopefully, Morgan Stanley’s increased commitment to gender equality and Ellevest’s latest round of funding will inspire more women to take control of their financial lives while demonstrating to the rest of the financial services industry that women-focused programs are not only necessary but also thriving.