University endowments are one of the few areas in asset management where more women are represented in both the back office and on the board. Among the 50 largest endowments, women lead about a dozen of the boards.
Women make up 80% of the endowment boards of the group of colleges known as the Seven Sisters. Their collective investment return for the fiscal year 2017 was 12.5%, slightly higher than the national average. This echoes similar data that show female portfolio managers generate higher returns. Fixed income mutual funds run by women have outperformed since 2003 and companies led by female CEOs show good price to book value and return on equity.
Perhaps more women on endowment boards will lead to more women represented on corporate boards. University boards have traditionally been a stepping stone on the way to spots on corporate boards. It is also an excellent place to develop skills needed to run a board and to network for future positions. However, Wall Street, which tends to serve as a feeder for investment committees, tends to support fewer women, not because of a lack of talent, but a lack of numbers at the executive level.