From the super-charged egos of Wall Street to the phallic rocket emojis and innuendo-filled goats in online forums, investing is a male sport.

But the COVID-19 market crash in March and subsequent rally hasn’t just been fuelled by under-stimulated men. Women are among the first-time ‘Robinhood’ traders and their portfolios are proving resilient, but they’re also finding investing can be a lonely place.

Madden Burns, 28, started investing from March, having decided that now was as good as any time to learn about sharemarket investing.

She immediately went to the US market via the Stake app, rather than the resources and bank-heavy ASX, and began learning via Stake’s online forums.

“I’m on the Stake Reddit thread and the Facebook community, but all the commenters are men,” she told Stockhead.

“All my friends who trade are men. None of my female friends trade, and it is really exclusionary when you listen to podcasts on trading and it’s all just white men.

“The culture is just so male dominated and exclusionary for women. It’s such a scary place that excludes women from wealth generation.”


Rocket emojis are out

Few women participate openly on any ASX investing forum, from Hotcopper’s anonymous chats to Facebook and Reddit groups.

Comments, such as “Woman [sic] favour handbags and shoes. Virus can’t hold retail down forever. Even in the hardest of times my woman still can max out a credit card or after pay, I don’t think she is alone”, appear innocuous on their own.

But when taken with unsolicited private messages asking for dates or more, harassment, and public locker room banter, online forums can be a hostile place for women seeking advice and information about investing.

In response to the rockets, love hearts and sexist posts in online forums, Facebook groups are emerging from the more established Women Stock Market Investors and Stock Sisters, for US traders, to ASX Stock Tips for Women that popped up since March.

Rocket emojis are in short supply in these forums.

Investment Trends’ 2019 2H Online Broking Report noted that women only make up 18 per cent of 750,000 online investors across Australia, slightly up on 13 per cent in 2014.


Ladies’ night

Recent data indicates some are having success as amateurs since March.

Burns’ portfolio was up 24 per cent, when she spoke to Stockhead.

She had Atlassian, Uber, Vivid Solar, Slack and Hewlett-Packard in her portfolio.

Eleanor Wilson, a 21-year-old from Brisbane, told the ABC in early June her investments were up 35 per cent.

And IG Markets data released Monday of investors who trade through its platform shows a higher proportion of women profitably traded gold, crude oil and Bitcoin.


Not learning is the biggest risk

Multiple studies conducted over the last few decades suggest women are more cautious about investing, more likely to hold long-term winners and sell poorly performing stocks, trade less and more likely to heavily research an investment.

But women also lack confidence and time to do the research they feel necessary to starting a share portfolio, according to research by Fidelity International Australia released late in 2019.

The report found only 28.3 per cent of women say they are “somewhat” or “very” confident about investing, compared to 50.8 per cent of men.

That lack of confidence has dire consequences over time.

“Financial inequality continues to be an issue for too many women. Despite recent progress, women are still earning less, there are fewer of them in senior positions and from the age of 25 the gap between men and women’s superannuation savings starts to grow,” Fidelity managing director Alva Devoy said.

“If women’s ability to earn and therefore save during their working lives is less than men’s, then it is even more important that they have access to the tools to help them to make their money work harder for them.

“A lack of time and confidence, and fears about the risks, are all obstacles that are stopping women from believing that investing is for them.”

But as the market volatility introduces more amateurs to investing, so women are being swept along in the wave of enthusiasm and in the process educating themselves about what has, until now, been a man’s world.