Says the curvy blond, “Just last night I had dinner with a potential investor, and he e-mailed me 20 minutes after we left, saying, ‘Great spending time with you tonight. Let’s do it again soon.’ That’s not, like, a professional follow-up note. But,” she adds, “he was nice and cute, so I wrote back. Some guys flirt a lot, and you have to be very careful, because some of them get dirty. You can never get your reputation back.” Another lithe exec complains about men who repeatedly arrange evening meetings without ever actually investing in the funds. “It’s a gray area: We know it’s business, and the men know it’s business, but there is also the allure of attractive, young girls taking them out,” she says.
Employing feminine charms as a business strategy requires these women to walk an extremely fine line. “There is this stigma,” says one female marketer. “You don’t want to be out there giving your business card out and saying, ‘Call me!’ You have to do everything in a very tactful way.” And the rules change when other females enter the room—investors’ wives, for instance. “You have to tone it down when the wives are around,” says the lithe marketing exec. And sometimes, finding a different strategy is helpful: “I had to start watching more television, like American Idol, so I could find some common ground with them.”
Some hedge funds have been known to treat modeling agencies as temp agencies, asking them if their charges will work off the catwalk as assistants. Others have even hired former models full-time to handle investor relations. “I have heard of head-hunters being told to search specifically for ‘Swedish-looking’ women for marketing positions,” says one horrified female finance executive. More egregiously, adds one 28-year-old female analyst (one of the rare double-X chromosomes on the investment side of the business), European-based hedge funds have allegedly begun hiring Eastern European model types to act as marketing execs on business trips to the Middle East, where, with oil at more than $100 a barrel, a $100 million investment is like Monopoly money. “A lot of fund managers are dorky, and it’s more interesting for [the investors] to see this gorgeous model from wherever,” says the analyst.
Such stories are part of the reason intelligent, ambitious women in the hedge fund world are still struggling to be taken seriously. “Marketing is the ghetto where they put the women,” says one woman who heads up her own hedge fund. Adds Levin, “The marketers don’t like that stereotype, but there is a lot of validity to it.” Says the aforementioned male marketer, “I have never, ever seen an ugly person in this role.”