December 5, 2022

New CEO of Girls Who Invest wants to boost women in asset management

  • Katherine Jollon Colsher, 42, is the new CEO of Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit that aims to enhance the role of women in asset management by working with industry giants like Blackstone, BlackRock, and Invesco. 
  • Though she has no formal experience as a portfolio manager, Colsher spent a decade as an MD at Goldman Sachs, running its 10,000 Small Businesses program, before taking over Girls Who Invest earlier this month.
  • Colsher told Business Insider how she’s planning to help women take over 30% of the world’s investable capital by 2030 — and it starts at the micro level, she said.
  • Women make up just 6% of senior leaders in private equity, 4% in real estate, and 3% in hedge funds, the organization says.
  • Are you a young person working on Wall Street? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected], encrypted messaging app Signal (561-247-5758), or direct message on Twitter @reedalexander.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Last April, seven heads of powerful Wall Street institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley, gathered in Washington, DC, to testify before the House Financial Services Committee.

Rep. Al Green, a Democratic congressman from Texas, asked the CEOs, all of whom were men, to raise their hands if they believed that their likely successor would be a woman. Not one of the seven leaders did.

Since then, one of those executives was proven wrong: Michael Corbat, the 60-year-old CEO of Citigroup, will retire in February and be succeeded by Jane Fraser, 53, the bank announced earlier this month. 

At the time of the hearing, Katherine Jollon Colsher was a managing director at Goldman Sachs. She remembers watching that hearing — and how she felt more recently when she learned that Fraser had finally shattered Wall Street’s most stubborn glass ceiling.

“I could not be more excited and thrilled” about Fraser, Colsher told Business Insider in an interview. “This is all around an awesome moment, and something that we’ll talk about for [a long] time to come, and she’s exceptional.”

Read more: Wall Street shatters a glass ceiling as Jane Fraser is announced as Citigroup’s new CEO, becoming the first woman to lead a major US bank

For Colsher, 42, Fraser’s milestone coincides with an inflection point in her own career. In early September, the former Goldman Sachs executive accepted a new role of her own as the CEO of Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the number of women in portfolio management and executive roles throughout the asset-management industry. The organization has partnerships with some of the biggest players in the space, including BlackRock, Blackstone, Invesco, and D.E. Shaw & Co. 

Already, she’s prioritized tackling an ambitious goal: increasing the amount of professionally managed assets —venture capital, hedge funds, mutual funds, real estate, asset managers — that women control to 30% by the year 2030. Recent statistics peg the current figure at below 5%  she said, “so there is a road ahead of us.” 

Colsher has spent her career advocating for social causes

Before taking over Girls Who Invest earlier this month, Colsher — a former Goldman Sachs vice president, later turned MD — ran Goldman’s 10,000 Small Businesses program, which provides education, capital and support to entrepreneurs. She departed from the firm in August, having originally joined the bank in 2010.

Prior to her decade at Goldman, Colsher was the director for organizational development and effectiveness for ONE, an advocacy group dedicated to ending extreme poverty and preventable diseases that was cofounded by U2 frontman Bono.

Though she has never worked directly as a portfolio manager, Colsher has forged a career advocating for causes in the social impact space, which, she said, has shown her a “world of intersections” between the nonprofit community and private sector. 

Now, to help realize her goal of boosting women’s control of investable capital by 2030, she plans to zero in on her organization’s flagship summer intensive program. It’s a 10-week crash course in finance that Colsher likened to an “MBA-style bootcamp,” and she sees it as a fertile training ground for future leaders in asset management.

The program, which is open to college sophomores, pairs entrants with more than 100 asset management firms in the US and UK. First, the students undergo four weeks of rigorous financial education followed by a six-week paid internship with the asset managers. Once they graduate, they receive continual support from the Girls Who Invest alumni community.

“Over 500 women come to our signature flagship summer intensive program,” Colsher said, noting that, “of those, 80% stay in the industry.”

See more: One of the most powerful women at Bank of America explained how to defeat racial inequality at work: ‘It’s one thing to say Lives Matter. It’s another thing to say, with clarity, Black Lives Matter.’

Colsher also said a key initiative of the group is to enhance diversity in asset management as well. 

“It certainly takes a village to ensure that women and women of color, are entering these industries,” she said.

The program is also keen to expand beyond the traditional pipelines that typically feed into Wall Street firms. 

“We work with hundreds and hundreds of universities to get the word out about Girls Who Invest,” Colsher explained. “We don’t just go to an Ivy League school and say, ‘Hey, can you send your best people in finance?'”

‘We can’t stop, and we can’t rest on our laurels’

Data show that women in asset management have leaps and bounds ahead of them before they reach gender parity with their male colleagues.

Women represent just 6% of senior leaders in private equity, 4% in real estate, and 3% in hedge funds, Girls Who Invest says on its website.

What’s more, the nonprofit group Catalyst found earlier this year that, overall, fewer than one in three (31%) senior or executive-level officials at finance or insurance institutions in the US were women.

Of them, just 2% were Asian, and 1.3% each were Black or Latinx. The remaining 26% were white.

Read more: Meet the 20-year-old founder of @WallStreetConfessions, an Instagram account that’s become an open forum to discuss the dark side of finance and gathered followers including the CEO of Jefferies

Focusing on those numbers could be disheartening, but Colsher sees investable capital, rather than the sheer number of women in managerial jobs, as the key to closing the gap. After all, she said, that’s where the “power and influence is.”

“You can really make a big difference” when women control the capital, she said.

So now, after a career spent advocating for causes ranging from entrepreneurship to public health and social services, Colsher is ready to take on this fight. She’s buoyed by victories like Jane Fraser’s appointment to Citi’s top spot, but isn’t underestimating the obstacles that lie ahead.

“We need to continue to elevate talent, particularly for women and people of color,” she said. “We can’t stop, and we can’t rest on our laurels.”

Are you a young person working on Wall Street? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected], encrypted messaging app Signal (561-247-5758), or direct message on Twitter @reedalexander.

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