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Was the Economic Meltdown a Crisis of Masculinity Run Amuck? It's Time for Women to Step In

If it had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters, would the financial meltdown have shaken out in the same way?

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Zehner knows all about being the only woman among a sea of men; in 1996, at just 32-years-old, she was the first female trader and youngest woman to be invited in to the partnership at Goldman Sachs. She writes, "At the time I made partner I was one of two women in a class of 38 and the percentages are not that much different today."

In fact, women make up just 10 percent of all mutual fund managers and only 3 percent of the approximately $1.9 trillion invested in hedge funds. This, despite the fact that women-owned funds outperform funds in general; Hedge Fund Research has just released a study that found that women-owned funds delivered an annual return of 9.06 percent compared with 5.82 percent among all hedge funds from 2000 to date.

So why are so few women in the financial sector when it's clear they are well-equipped to be there?

Zehner explains: "The barriers that continue to prevent women from reaching senior leadership in critical mass in the financial services industry and more generally--negative gender stereotyping, lack of women in line positions, a narrow pipeline, lack of mentoring and promotion opportunities, work/life balance challenges, limited access to powerful professional networks--are the same ones faced over a decade ago."

She and so many others are hoping that this financial crisis will be the catalyst for a long overdue transformation in the financial sector. Spar explains, "This year has really taught us that if you want to have the best performance over the long run you need to have both genders' perceptions represented among the decision makers, not because it's better for women, but because it's vital for the economy."

Courtney E. Martin is the author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women. You can read more about her work at

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