HONG KONG: CFA Institute, the global association of investment management professionals, said its latest survey, Gender Bias in the Investment Profession in Asia Pacific, has found that 76% of its APAC respondents believe workplace diversity improves collaboration to deliver better business outcomes. An overwhelming 95% of those surveyed said their workplaces advocate for gender diversity.

More than half of survey respondents (51%) said they are optimistic gender equality can be achieved in the next 10 years. Investment professionals in India (72%) and Mainland China (60%) are the most optimistic of achieving gender equality in 10 years, while a minority, though still sizable group, in Singapore (44%) and South Korea (37%) see equality as a realistic goal in a decade. In addition, 74% of respondents said gender-balance in the workplace not only improves team performance, but sends a strong message to employees, customers, investors, and the public.

“Progress towards eliminating discrimination and achieving gender equality is vitally important for the future of the investment industry,” said Karyn McLean, CFA, head of marketing and communications, Asia Pacific, CFA Institute. “Diversity in the workplace enables the industry to tap into a much larger talent pool and gives voice to a wider range of perspectives and insights. A more inclusive work environment facilitates better team performance, allows for more effective decision making, including robust internal debates, and deliver better business outcomes.”

Diversity a powerful differentiator 

The belief that workplace diversity offers real business benefits is a sentiment gaining traction in many Asian markets today. For example, 48% of respondents believe women in leadership positions have better soft skills than men; these skills remain critical to effective team management. That view was widely accepted in Mainland China (63%), Hong Kong SAR (55%) and Singapore (50%).

Gender Inequality taboo topic at workplace

Despite positive trends in the industry, the survey also discovered gender discrimination and workplace inequality can still be found in Asia’s investment industry. Some 66% of female respondents noted they still feel uncomfortable to speak up about gender discrimination in their own workplace. Respondents in Korea (66%) were the most reluctant to discuss gender inequality, followed by Hong Kong SAR (44%), Singapore (43%) and Mainland China (41%). Additionally, 70% of respondents of both genders believe women still face pressure to “dress and look the part” in the industry.

Obstacles to achieving Gender Equality

Asked why fewer women hold senior positions, respondents across the region said women in general can be less assertive than men when advocating for career opportunities. Some 26% said women often sacrifice careers due to social pressure to take the lead in managing family life, while 20% believe the longer hours and higher stress of senior roles interferes with family duties. The still-small number of women role models in senior positions also slows progress, according to 18% of those surveyed.

Next steps to eliminate gender inequality

McLean said that CFA Institute sees this survey as drawing a ‘line in the sand’ that it can point out to the investment industry to encourage more women to join the industry and progress into senior roles. McLean noted that the President and CEO of CFA Institute, Margaret Franklin, CFA, represents the organization’s first female CEO.

Going forward, CFA Institute recommends individual companies change performance and salary evaluation systems to: ensure they are merit and data-driven; address gender imbalance at the hiring stage; and grow the funnel of female talent reaching senior leadership positions through specific mentorship, and learning and development commitments by senior male leaders. When making promotion decisions, companies should consider a person’s ability to hire, develop and lead a diverse team, and conduct a gender pay-gap analysis.

Promoting Gender Diversity

CFA Institute has been a leading voice on gender inequality in the industry and sponsors research, hosts conferences and events, and convenes industry meetings to shine a spotlight on the issue. For example, CFA Institute offers additional financial support to any CFA Society that organizes an event where more than 30% of the event speakers are women. Also, and more significantly, CFA Institute has expanded a program in India into what will become a global ‘Young Women in Investment’ program.

The CFA Institute guide to diversity and inclusion in investment management was launched at the CFA Institute/ CFA Society of San Francisco Diversity and Inclusion 2018 conference. This includes a guide to implementing a diversity and inclusion benchmark.


In November 2019, CFA Institute conducted a regional survey of 3,005 investment professionals in Asia Pacific to gather their views on gender equality and latent gender bias in the APAC investment services industry. Respondents included junior- through senior-level investment professionals with a ratio of 40% male and 60% female. Surveyed markets included Australia, Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, India, South Korea, and Singapore.