New York: Fidelity Investments has started a mutual fund that invests in companies with a high percentage of women in leadership positions.

The actively managed Women’s Leadership Fund was launched on Wednesday, according to a statement from Boston-based Fidelity, which is led by Abby Johnson. The fund will invest in about 100 companies that have either one-third women board members, a woman on the senior management team or that meet gender diversity initiatives for hiring, retention, paid leave and promotion of women.

“I’m looking for companies that I believe are committed to female leadership and development, that can grow earnings more than the market and that have resilient businesses models,” said Nicole Connolly, Fidelity’s head of ESG investing and the fund’s portfolio manager.

Strategies that focus on gender are growing in popularity as managers appeal to more socially conscious investors. The Fidelity fund sets a high bar for such funds, which typically require that a company have from one to three women on their board to qualify for the strategy.

Connolly said she hopes her fund will be an incentive for companies to promote and hire more women and will back proposals at companies that push for gender targets. She said the average percentage of women on boards in the Russell 3000 index is about 17 per cent.

The Women’s Leadership Fund, which can allocate across all sectors, is looking at about 700 companies in the Russell 3000 index as potential investments and expects that universe to keep growing. It has no investment minimums.

There are about 40 gender-focused investment funds, according to data tracked by Bloomberg, and more than half of them were launched since 2017.