janet-cowell
Photo from Nicolas Bader

In early January, the nonprofit organization Girls Who Invest, started by a Penn alumna, announced its new chief executive officer, a College graduate. 

1996 Wharton graduate Seema Hingorani founded the organization, which provides exposure to investment management to girls in high school and college, in April 2015. 

Janet Cowell, its new CEO, is a 1990 College graduate who received a master's degree in international relations and an MBA in 1995.

Cowell previously served as the state treasurer of North Carolina from 2009 to 2016, the first woman to ever hold the position. According to Business Wire, she managed more than $100 billion in “assets, and health and retirement benefits.”

“Janet is a highly accomplished industry professional, and she will propel our organization and its mission to the next level of growth,” Hingorani said in Business Wire's press release. “I look forward to working with Janet along with my fellow Board members as we continue to deliver on our goal to have 30% of the world’s investable capital managed by women by the year 2030.”

For the third year in a row, Girls Who Invest will host its annual four-week summer program for young women interested in asset management on Penn's campus. Cowell noted that this summer, the organization will also host a cohort of 50 girls at the University of Notre Dame. 

After the program, Girls Who Invest works to maintain a connection with the young women and helps them find junior internships or jobs after graduation with the help of sponsors like Goldman Sachs, Vista Equity, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, Cowell said.

She added that the team is currently reviewing more than 600 applications they received last fall for the 100 available slots for the programs at Penn and Notre Dame. The organization also places a heavy emphasis on finding a diverse class of young attendees. 

"We’re looking for different majors, so these are not young women who are necessarily finance majors but some are science, some may be heavily involved in ROTC," Cowell said. "But just a really rich mix of young women. All of whom have a threshold of ACT scores, SAT scores, GPA, that show they’ve got the chops to actually do the finance that’s going to be core to investment management."

Wharton finance professor Bilge Yilmaz has helped since the inception of the summer program. According to Cowell, Yilmaz has designed the curriculum, developed a small team of instructors and programs, and even contributed funds to the program. 

"Janet brings this to a completely other level," Yilmaz said. "This is a major, major success for Seema." 

Moving forward, Cowell plans to expand the program within the United States, primarily on the West Coast, and then aims to go international. 

"We’ve had interest from universities in London, Paris, Toronto, Singapore, Mumbai," Cowell said. "With the whole concept of GWI, as you could imagine right now in sort of a moment of time when a lot of people are focused on women in organizations and how they can improve the situation, we’ve had a lot of in-bound calls and interest. So, I certainly think we can take this program international."

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