Pedestrians walk along Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)  

Women Crash Wall Street With Skills Honed at Financial Boot Camp

(Bloomberg) -- Rachel Simpson’s phone blew up with good-luck texts on the first day of her internship at Vista Equity Partners, most from other young women she’d met through Girls Who Invest. Now that the internship is over, she expects her new friends, and the lessons learned at the innovative training program, will help propel her into a career in finance.

Girls Who Invest is a three-year-old program pushing to increase gender diversity in asset management. It is expanding its reach, enrolling more students than ever and offering programs at two campuses and on the web. This year, 120 college students made it through a month of money management boot camp before heading off to internships at one of 66 partner companies, most of which wrap up this week.

For women like Simpson, a Duke University junior studying economics, the program augments college studies with training and real-world experience.

“I haven’t reached the part of my major yet in which I’ll take finance electives, so most of the stuff I’ve been learning in class has been really theoretical,” Simpson said. “This helped going into my internship.”

Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. fund managers are women, according to a Morningstar report. Girls Who Invest, seeking to diversify the industry, wants 30 percent of investment capital worldwide run by women by 2030. Janet Cowell, the group’s chief executive officer, said women have a harder time breaking into the business.

“We are really looking at wanting young women to get access to managing money,” Cowell said in an interview. “That’s where a lot of power lies.”

This year was the largest class ever -- quadruple the number from 2016. The program began at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and expanded this year to the University of Notre Dame. Wharton professors drafted the curriculum.

In addition to taking classes, students participate in an equity-valuation project and pitch ideas to executives at companies like McDonald’s Corp. and Comcast Corp. The program’s partners include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which have both hired alums, Cowell said.

Neha Kushwaha, a junior at Barnard College, said Girls Who Invest also helps students develop relationships that are lasting -- and useful.

“I got so close to the girls, which I didn’t necessarily think about going into it,” said Kushwaha, who interned at Pacific Investment Management Co. “We all went through this training together, really bonded, and then about 15 other girls and I interned in New York and kept in touch.”

Girls Who Invest is the brainchild of Seema Hingorani, the former chief investment officer for New York City’s pension funds. It’s too early to say for sure how effective the program has been, but early data indicate as many as 80 percent of the women involved are working or interning in finance. About 190 women have attended on campus and 300 have used an online version of the program.

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