Do women make better investors than men?

And if so, why aren't there more of them?


The world of investing is frequently characterised by images of Alpha Males on testosterone-filled trading floors, giving the impression that making money is a man's game and not an activity with which women can successfully engage.

The truth is somewhat different. Many banks and investment firms know it: women make better investors than men. Plenty of research over the years has proven this to be the case. Even Warren Buffett's phenomenal success is thought by many to be due to the fact that he invests like a girl.

Converts to evidence-based investing will understand why. The fundamental traits of successful investing - patience, a studied attitude to risk, long-term thinking, and an aversion to impulsive decisions - are generally believed to be more 'feminine' attributes.

So, if women make better investors than men, why aren't more of them taking the plunge into the stock market?

In our experience, around 95% of our female clients either invest alongside their husbands or partners, benefit from a trust fund or, if 'unattached', are widows or divorcees with estates to invest. We find that the latter categories of female investor (widows and divorcees) often leave quite substantial inherited wealth or divorce settlements on deposit in a bank or building society, and don't invest it at all.

In financial terms, this doesn't make sense; but it is understandable: many wealthy older women have been poorly educated in financial matters because they 'didn't need to know' and left it all to their husbands. The historical aversion of women to talking about money, combined with the macho image of the money market, is another stumbling block. This could be one reason why only 35% of women have any private pension provision, says financial journalist Merryn Somerset Webb, despite the fact that women and money are a 'perfect match'.

A 2015 report from US firm Fidelity Investments found that less than half of women surveyed felt confident in discussing money and investing with a financial adviser, although over 90% wanted to learn more; and more than half worry they won't have enough money to fund their retirement.

Confidence is a big issue, along with a feeling that it is perhaps 'unladylike' to talk about money. Over a quarter of respondents said they were raised not to talk about finances, and over a third said they felt uncomfortable doing so. 

Many female financial advisers are capitalising on this and specifically targeting potential women investors, who may feel more at ease discussing matters with another woman. Some advisers are forming alliances with divorce and probate lawyers to offer a 'seamless' financial pathway post-divorce or widowhood. 

The younger generation of women investors, with more financial independence and education, and a greater acceptance and expectation of equality, should make the gender balance much more even and, we believe, will boost the growing popularity of evidence based investing, with its 'female friendly' values.

According to the Investment Association, UK investment in index tracker/passive funds, which are often used by evidence-based investors, was up 23% in the year to the end of 2014, even though still it still only represents 11.2% of the total £834 billion under management. With a new generation of independent women investors making informed and confident investing decisions, this can only be set to grow further and faster than ever before.