MARCH 2019

Kate Huntington evaluates gender-focused funds with U.S. News

Kate Huntington, managing director, research at Athena Capital AdvisorsKate Huntington, Managing Director, Research 

Recent insights reveal that investments focused on environmental, social, and governance factors can be equally, if not more, profitable than traditional investments. Further, investing in mutual or exchange-traded funds that promote ESG policies can allow for investors to align their investments with their values.

In “How to Evaluate Funds that Invest in Women” by Debbie Carlson for U.S. News, Kate Huntington, managing director, research, advises investors to think about their objectives and goals when evaluating gender-focused funds.

To align a portfolio with gender values, Huntington poses three key questions: “Are you seeking to align your portfolio with your values in terms of gender? Secondly, are you trying to capture the performance benefits associated with gender? And third, do you want to use your capital to empower women?” Huntington explains that some publicly available mutual funds capitalize on all three of these goals, especially if a manager of the fund uses strategies to incorporate shareholder engagement and proxy voting.

Huntington highlights the importance of also evaluating company culture—not just headcounts—when it comes to gauging investments, funds, or individual stocks, “Look at if they’re taking a more comprehensive approach to how women are supported and treated in the workplace,” she says. “That can’t be done with just counting them at one point in time.”

When investors are researching funds, Huntington further recommends assessing the size of assets under management and fees, as some newer ETFs with low assets under management invoke higher costs. In regard to these fees, Huntington affirms “you are paying for that additional analysis,” pointing out that even bigger ETFs and mutual funds have fees that are higher than the super low-cost ETFs that simply invest in a broad stock market index.

Finding proper ESG data materials and policy experts in the gender investing field can pose a challenge for measuring gender-equity outcomes. However, attention to gender impact programs are on the rise with the help of governmental and independent groups’ focus on data collection and program development, such as the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles and the newly formed Gender Equality Mainstreaming Framework pilot program designed to support companies and investors improving business operations and empowerment to women-led initiatives.

The full U.S. News article, “How to Evaluate Funds that Invest in Women,” can be accessed here.

Kate Huntington, managing director, research, focuses on private equity and private real estate investments and is co-head of Athena’s research and manager selection team. She joined Athena Capital Advisors from Cambridge Associates. Kate has authored and contributed to several gender, impact, and portfolio management articles and materials.