(Bloomberg) -- The biggest U.S. charitable foundations are increasingly turning to investment firms owned by women or people of color to manage their assets.
At 30 of the wealthiest philanthropies, 16.6% of funds -- more than $11 billion -- are invested with diverse-owned firms, according to a report by the Knight Foundation and the Global Economics Group released Thursday. That’s up from 13.3% last year.
It’s encouraging “that investment with diverse-owned firms is growing,” Robert Raben, founder and executive director of the Diverse Asset Managers Initiative, said in a statement. “While we are relieved by these positive steps forward, we are also deeply conscious of how far we have to go.”
Researchers requested data from the top 55 charitable foundations by total assets, and 30 foundations with more than $166 billion in combined assets participated in the survey.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- the largest philanthropy in the study, with almost $50 billion in assets -- was the only one to report that 0% of its holdings are with diverse firms. The foundation’s assets are largely managed in-house by Cascade Investment LLC. “As a result, the study looks at just a sliver of our portfolio,” the foundation said in comments included in the study.
“The Knight study is deeply flawed for an asset manager like BMGFT which manages its assets directly with a gender and ethnically diverse internal team,” Cascade Investment said in an emailed statement “We also have billions of dollars invested with external managers or investment firms who are women or minority owned or led. These firms and managers represent a meaningful share of our assets.”
The Gates foundation committed $2.1 billion earlier this year to advance gender equity, Melinda French Gates’s primary philanthropic focus.