Investing in Women

It's interesting. There are lots of "socially responsible" mutual funds, aiming to make investors money by supporting companies that don't tax the conscience. There are even a handful of mutual funds reflecting the values of Democrats or Republicans, Christians or Muslims, and so on. (Read "Invest With Your Values.") But when I looked into how many mutual funds focus on women, I found just one, the Pax World Women's Equity Fund (PXWEX). At the fund company's website, I read that:

In selecting investments, the Women's Equity Fund's investment advisor applies sustainable investing criteria, emphasizing companies that promote gender equity through internal policies and programs, transparency regarding the effectiveness of those policies and programs, and accountability among employees to assure implementation and observance of the same.

Sounds good, eh? The fund holds a number of well-known stocks, including Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , Illinois Tool Works (NYSE: ITW  ) , Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS  ) , and Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) .

Perhaps more interesting is the reasoning behind the fund's investment choices. For instance, PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) has a woman, Indra Nooyi, as its CEO, and a third of the 12 top corporate officers listed on its website are women. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , meanwhile, offers all kinds of benefits of interest to women, such as paid parental leave, a "new mothers" room in many buildings, and even on-site mammography screenings.

But ...
Still, the fund's overall performance hasn't been amazing, beating the S&P 500 by almost 1 percentage point over the past decade, and underperforming it by a little over the shorter term. I'd personally rather aim to have my money grow faster, to support this woman -- me.

So what can we do to support women instead? Well, we can still support those businesses that treat women fairly. We can scan lists of the companies that are deemed the best places for women to work, and those that have women in key positions. We can give them our money when we need to buy a computer, a drink, or a cordless drill.

And when it comes to investing, we can look for the funds with the best performances and best prospects. The Motley Fool would love to help you find winners -- check out our Champion Funds newsletter, where I've found some great funds. It's even headed by a woman, Amanda Kish.


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