“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” ―Sheryl Sandberg
Eighty percent. That was the approximate percentage of raised hands in a room full of scholars at a “Girls Who Invest” Summer Intensive Program when I asked how many of them did not pick finance or investing as a career choice when they entered college. A sigh of relief. The overwhelming reaction from the crowd of rising juniors when I shared that I did not choose fixed-income investing when I started my career at Western Asset over 27 years ago. Instead, fixed-income chose me.
Girls Who Invest (GWI) was founded in 2015 by Seema Hingorani, the former Chief Investment Officer, Head of Public Equities & Hedge Funds for the New York City Retirement Systems. GWI is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry. The organization focuses on education, industry outreach, accessibility and career placement to inspire and support young women to become tomorrow’s leading investors. Its founder, a psychology/philosophy major at Yale and a Wharton grad, felt it was important to also recruit students from state schools with this year’s representation standing at 25%. To level the playing field, GWI is free to all accepted students. The 150 spots for the 10-week flagship summer program went to college sophomores from different socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures, with varied majors of study, from over 60 state and private colleges and universities across the country. After the intensive classroom training, the program culminates for each student with a paid internship at one of GWI’s partner investment firms.
At the beginning of the GWI 2019 summer program, Suzanne Trepp, who has been with Western Asset for more than 22 years, made the trek to the University of Pennsylvania to be part of the panel on fixed-income and credit investing and also blogged about her experience. As the academic portion of this year’s program was about to conclude, I was also invited to be part of a similar panel at the University of Notre Dame along with other female senior investment professionals from BMO Asset Management, Oaktree Capital and PIMCO. As part of the speaker series, we were able to bridge education with practice by sharing our respective experiences with the scholars considering careers in investments.
Western Asset is thrilled to have our first GWI intern this summer on the investment team. This is also the summer we offered a GWI alumna a permanent position as an ESG analyst to work alongside Bonnie Wongtrakool, Western Asset's Global Head of ESG Investments, who was part of last summer’s panel at Notre Dame. With so many investment firms now eager to hire GWI interns, the organization is considering expanding the program internationally, and perhaps even extending it to high school students. Western Asset is proud to support Girls Who Invest, which has the impressive goal of “30 by 30”: to have 30% of the world’s investable capital managed by women by 2030.