By Bridget Macaskill Gary Belsky

(MONEY Magazine) – The $1.2 trillion, male-dominated brokerage, mutual fund and insurance industries have long ignored the country's 127 million women. Foolishly, it turns out. Recently, Oppenheimer Management, the New York City-based sponsor of 59 mutual funds, conducted a pioneering national study of women and money. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the second in command at that firm is a woman: Bridget Macaskill, the president. She directed the Wirthlin Group, a Washington, D.C. polling firm, to interview 2,021 adults (1,003 men and 1,018 women) nationwide last February and March. The survey results, released exclusively to MONEY, were summed up by Macaskill in a conversation with writer Gary Belsky:

MONEY: TRADITIONALLY, PEOPLE HAVE BELIEVED THAT WOMEN WEREN'T VERY CAPABLE WHEN IT CAME TO INVESTING. IS THAT STILL THE BELIEF? MACASKILL: Hardly. Our survey shows that the barriers are falling. For example, only 14% of men and just 10% of women said they believed that investing was a man's job. More importantly, 88% of women were confident that they could invest a $10,000 windfall wisely. And 93% of married men felt confident their wives could handle finances alone, if they had to.

MONEY: SO IS THERE LESS TENSION BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN REGARDING MONEY NOW? MACASKILL: Yes, more than 70% of both sexes felt comfortable talking to their spouses about money, so we conclude there is indeed lots less tension. We had thought women were less involved with investments because their husbands were threatened or troubled by such an idea, but this survey showed absolutely no evidence of that. In fact, most family financial decision-making is now a joint effort. More than 95% of men and women said they discuss major choices. However, while 56% of married women paid the bills, only 17% make life insurance decisions, and just 12% are making investment choices on their own.

MONEY: IS THAT BECAUSE MEN KNOW MORE ABOUT STOCKS, BONDS AND INSURANCE POLICIES? MACASKILL: Not really. More likely, it's because stockbrokers or insurance agents ask to talk to men when they call. And on top of that, women usually take on the child-care and household chores, not to mention their own jobs, so they're especially hard-pressed for time. But our survey indicated that more than half of all men and women think financial advisers treat women with less respect than they treat men. That's clearly a mistake on the part of financial professionals. Our survey points to an era of much broader financial involvement for women in this country, who are increasingly interested in finances -- 43%, for example, said they enjoyed thinking and talking about investing. The demographics are clear. The overwhelming majority of women -- 82% in our survey -- believe that they will be solely responsible for their financial well-being at some point in their lives. That's why we offer information that is especially geared to women's needs and investing interests. (To receive this information, call Oppenheimer at 800-892-4442.)