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Close to her heart

Ex-N.C. Treasurer Cowell takes helm of Girls Who Invest

Janet Cowell hopes to continue expanding the Girls Who Invest program.

Former North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell is merging her experiences in finance, public service and education into a new job that also happens to be a personal cause.

As CEO of Girls Who Invest, Ms. Cowell will be directing a non-profit organization that is working to dramatically increase the pipeline of young women going into asset management by offering a combination of college programs and paid internships. It has set its sights on having 30% of investible capital worldwide managed by women by 2030, up from single-digit representation today.

Until 2017, Ms. Cowell was the sole trustee of the $94 billion North Carolina Retirement Systems, Raleigh, and the first woman to hold that office. She also served several terms with the Raleigh City Council and North Carolina Senate.

Ms. Cowell started in global finance as a securities analyst for Lehman Brothers and HSBC in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, after earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from The Wharton School, where she now chairs its Executive Education Board.

Founded in 2015, Girls Who Invest offers free, 10-week summer programs for undergraduate women who are then placed in paid internships with investment firms.

The idea is spreading to investment officials with public pension funds, including the $225.3 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, and $67 billion Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board, Boston. Both are offering internships this summer.

"There is a lot of interest in the program," said Ms. Cowell, who hopes to get large public universities on board, too.

Her immediate plans for Girls Who Invest include expanding the in-residence program at the University of Pennsylvania to the University of Notre Dame this summer, and figuring out the next location, which could be on the West Coast or abroad, judging by the level of interest coming from several countries. Reaching to the high school level "is going to be a key strategic question this year" as well, she said.

Those who have followed Ms. Cowell's career are excited. She "will propel us to the next level," said Girls Who Invest founder Seema R. Hingorani, founder and chief investment officer of SevenStep Capital, and former CIO for the $189 billion New York City Retirement Systems.