When CFA Institute looked at its membership globally and discovered that fewer than one-in-five charterholders are women, it decided to find out why.

The institute surveyed 5,000 members worldwide — 4,000 men and 1,000 women. In no country do women make up half of all members, and women in the investment industry are underrepresented as a proportion of every country’s female working population.

Seven of the eight countries with the highest proportion of women CFA members are in Asia, with Vietnam leading at 43%. Romania, with 39.1% female CFA members, is the top European country.

G7 countries are lower on the list; France is the highest-ranked at 21.6%. In Norway, which has proactive a gender diversity policy for ensuring women are on corporate boards, just one in five CFA members are women. At 19.7%, Canada’s rate is similar (it’s ranked between Italy and Sri Lanka).

Of the women who hold CFAs, they’re more likely than men to be in a support role if they’re in the investment industry at all.

CFA members of both genders are of the same average age — about 42 — and they have similar levels of education (45% of women and 38.7% of men have attained bachelor’s degrees as their highest education; 52% of women and 57.2% of men have master’s degrees).

But the researchers suggest that the path to under-representation starts early in life.

“One possible explanation for the under-representation of women in finance is the well-documented gender gap in math: boys tend to perform better than girls on standardized math tests,” state the researchers. They note that other research has shown that the gender gap in math is correlated with wider measures of societal gender inequality.

And it’s precisely at the age of math tests and study halls that kids decide to go into finance. More than one-third of CFA members, regardless of gender, choose to go into finance before they’re 22 years old. But the researchers note that social influences can guide students’ decisions until  they’re out of university.

Advisor’s Jessica Bruno has written about a federal effort open more corporate boards to women.

Gender-diverse boards lead to higher returns. MSCI World Index companies with more female directors than average had a 10.1% mean annual return, as of September 2015, compared to 7.4% for those with fewer female directors. Further, they had higher valuations and fewer governance-related controversies.

Read the rest of her column here.

And read more of the CFA Institute’s report here.

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