CEO, Girls Who Invest,
and Bevon Joseph,
Co-founder, Greenwood Project
May 27, 2021 | 44:17
|00:30||Host Hugo Scott-Gall introduces today’s guests, Bevon Joseph and Katherine Jollon Colsher.|
|01:22||Katherine shares the vision of Girls Who Invest.|
|01:57||Bevon shares the mission of the Greenwood Project.|
|07:32||How does the financial services industry create more awareness of available career opportunities to underrepresented groups?|
|10:14||Why are women so underrepresented in finance versus other industries?|
|12:22||The importance of mentorship and diversity recruiting.|
|20:07||Revamping the internship and hiring processes to retain talent for the long term.|
|30:11||The impact of COVID on students’ expectations for hybrid working.|
|35:59||What does the future hold for the Greenwood Project and Girls Who Invest?|
|39:53||How to get involved with both organizations.|
Hugo Scott-Gall: Today I have with me Bevon Joseph, co-founder of the Greenwood Project, an organization that connects Black and Latinx students with career opportunities in financial services. Also, with me is Katherine Jollon Colsher, CEO of Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry. Katherine and Bevon, welcome. Thank you for joining me.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: Thank you.
Bevon Joseph: Thank you for having us.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Great, so we are going to start with I think just setting the scene, really from both of you. Just talk a little bit about your organizations, when they were set up, why they were set up, more importantly. So, Katherine, let’s start with you.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: Thank you. Thank you for having us, Hugo. So, Girls Who Invest is actually just this week celebrating its sixth birthday, so we have been in the market for six years. Our vision is for 30% of the world’s investable capital to be managed by women by 2030. We focus exclusively on the investment management industry and in terms of what we do day in and day out, it’s finding talent for the talent pipeline to be more representative of women and women of color, and we believe that funds perform better when managed by women.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Bevon?
Bevon Joseph: So, I’m Bevon Joseph, and together with my wife, back in 2016 we started the Greenwood Project. Our mission is to work with primarily Black and Latinx students from underserved communities in Chicago and other cities to introduce them and connect them to careers in financial services; a broad range of careers; everywhere from investment banking to operations, trading, HR, legal. We believe that there is no lack of talent, just a lack of opportunity and exposure, and we’ve grown from five students in 2016 to over 350 now and we’re expanding nationally and also in London as well in 2021. So, again it’s all about exposure and opportunity and education for our young people.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Great, great, great. That sets the scene very, very nicely. So, Bevon, tell me your journey. How did you get here?
Bevon Joseph: Yeah, definitely. So, not the traditional path. I grew up in Trinidad in Tobago. Moved after high school to the New Jersey, New York area where I lived for about 20 years. But my first job was on the trading floor at Chase in Manhattan. I was actually a computer break/fix guy, just on the trading floor. That just happened to be the first place I landed. I had no idea what was going on around me. People were yelling and screaming, and I just really became obsessed with learning about the markets, and I made friends with some traders, found some folks who were willing to mentor me, but I was heading towards the technology kind of area and career field, but really fell in love with the industry; the high pace, high energy, high adrenaline on the trading floor.
But I worked at several exchanges, banks, investment banks, hedge funds. Never had a career outside of financial services in 20 years, but the thing that I noticed from almost day one was looking around the trading floor and not seeing many people who looked like me. And I often wondered why that was, and when I made it—I ended up as a CTO at a hedge fund down the road, and over the years I managed a lot of interns, but they all seemed to be connected to or related to somebody at that firm. So, I realized that you know what? You need to have a certain level of social capital to even know that these opportunities exist and if you’re not privy to that capital, that network, it’s very unlikely that you will end up in a career in financial services.
Even though you might be super smart, getting good grades, and doing the right thing, if you don’t know what investment banking is, if you don’t know what a financial engineer career looks like, again you might go down a different route. So, Greenwood Project exists to almost be the organization I wish I had when I was 20 years old on that trading floor. So, now we want to reach back and help those kids avoid some of those challenges that I faced on my way to where I’m at today.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: I agree completely. I think Girls Who Invest would have changed my career path quite frankly. I didn’t start out in finance. Like many of the women we recruit, I went to a college where I majored in English, minored in History and French. I wasn’t on a finance track. Ironically, I was approached to be a math major by my school, and I said what? Why would I do that? And, you know, regrets abound, but I’m happy where I landed today. So, I went to a liberal arts college, studied topics that I loved but didn’t have a long-term career path that came out of that and, essentially, Girls Who Invest exists to correct the course for that to encourage people to take math and encourage people from all backgrounds, all geographies, all ethnicities and that’s critically important.
I did end up ultimately finding my way to finance, which I always get a bit of a chuckle about, but on the philanthropic side. So, in my nearly 11-year career at Goldman, I used to tease that I had the opportunity to spend Goldman’s money rather than make Goldman money, so that was the reality of where I sat in the Goldman Sachs Foundation doing a bucket list job of running 10,000 small businesses. And one thing that I had very much at Goldman was I had mentorship and sponsorship, and I had the great pleasure of working with a lot of women in the asset management team, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and for me personally, that was very rewarding.
Some of my mentors to this day are in that team and partners on that team. And when I was approached by Girls Who Invest to join the team here, I realized how fortunate I was to have mentorship and sponsorship from women and men in an industry that is often lacking mentorship and sponsorship for women. So, I somehow managed to end up in finance, and I somehow managed to have tremendous mentorship and sponsorship, and I appreciate that that was a privilege and an opportunity for me that not everybody has, and I believe in the importance of that being universal.
Hugo Scott-Gall: That’s great. I think two things you both said really: one is working in organizations, great organizations now that would have helped you back in the day. And then second, where you were saying, Katherine, really around the role of mentorship. I think, Bevon, what you said around awareness. You have this great expression: “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and so, we kind of all know that finance does have issues around diversity and inclusion in terms of representation. And what both of you are doing is a great way in starting to solve that, but how much of it do you think—because Kathrine you said, “Look, I was a liberal arts graduate.”
Bevon, you said, “I don’t think enough people are even aware.” So, there are quite a few things to unpack there, but one is how does finance broadly and the bit that I sit in which is asset management, Katherine that’s the market you’re addressing, how does this industry, which sometimes has the reputation, which isn’t always pristine, how does this industry make itself more attractive and more available? My career’s been in this industry and I find it tremendously exciting and still do every day. And yet, a lot of people don’t even know that it’s there or even know it could possibly be an option for them. How do you change that? So, I’ll throw that to you Katherine first and then go to Bevon for the second.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: I think the coolest thing about jobs for today within the asset management industry is they’re incredibly dynamic and you can explore a lot of interests. And that’s often not talked about. So, you can study tech firms and not be in tech, a big competitor right now to the industry. You can travel the world. You get to certain points in your career where you have tremendous flexibility and it is a work hard industry, but there’s also at the end of the day people don’t really mind if you’re taking that call from your home or another place or picking your kids up from school if that’s your need, or spending time with your parents if that’s your need.
So, I think that the flexibility that is allowed does exist. It needs to be more talked about and continually improved on, but it certainly exists in terms of being able to travel, spend time and make the important meetings, etc. etc. But also, I think these jobs are incredibly stimulating and incredibly substantive and you get to cover a lot of ground. And the reality is nobody is having these conversations at the dinner table, breaking down what is investment management. You can go work at a private equity firm, you can be in research, you can work in fixed income, you can work in infrastructure, right? No one’s having that conversation at the dinner table, let alone explaining the difference between the buy side and the sell side.
So, I think when we’re speaking to college students about the industry and approaching them about the industry, we’re first and foremost saying, “Let us talk about science and why it’s exciting. And let us tell you a little bit more about the difference between the buy side and the sell side. And based on what you said, we think the investment management industry could be a really good fit.” That’s a long conversation to have, right? It’s hard to have that in five minutes and convert somebody to a yes, but we do it all the time and we spend a lot of time on it, and I think that’s what’s important.
We want to attract people who didn’t grow up in finance and be cultured and pedigreed for this industry since birth to come into the industry, but then we need to meet them where we are, and we need to speak about it in plain speak so that they can see that it’s compelling.
Hugo Scott-Gall: So, why are women so underrepresented in asset management versus say other professional service industries, like the law, for example. Why would the numbers be so different?
Katherine Jollon Colsher: I think people do grow up hearing you should be a lawyer or a doctor. Industries literally cater toys to those fields, so you don’t get a toy when you’re six that says, “Look, you should be an investment professional.” So, I do think it’s more expected that somebody might pursue a career in law or doctors. I think there’s TV shows around it, etc. etc. I do think that a big shift we’ve seen in the last five years that is important is that five years ago firms would say to us, and we partner with over 105 investment management firms. Five years ago, people would say, “We honestly don’t know where to find women to recruit them.” No one says that to us anymore.
Within five years there has been acceptance that clearly there are enough women to enter the talent pipeline and there is incredibly heightened awareness that this is about welcoming talent to the industry that doesn’t necessarily know about the industry and welcoming talent to the industry that might, quite frankly, be approached about other fields. So, that has been a tremendous shift, but I do think that the dialog with women to invite them into the finance industry hasn’t been systematically happening, and it happens on a very specific number of campuses that have been feeder systems for the finance industry for as long as the finance industry has been around, and that’s not necessarily the place to recruit women.
I want those women to still get those jobs, I should be clear. We’re not going to spend time and talent introducing certain people who already know about the industry to a firm; instead, we want to find additional women. I don’t want to discourage the women already in the field.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Sure. I think a bit of what you’re talking about, and this is what I want to address with you, Bevon, is the role of mentorship, seeing someone thinking, “I want to be like them, or the fact that they’re doing that means I think I could do it too.” How important is that?
Bevon Joseph: That’s critical. That’s like the secret sauce for Greenwood Project. So, the conversations I had with a lot of folks at financial institutions is when it comes to awareness of the industry, awareness of the firm and their brand and careers there, I tell these companies in very plain speak, “Listen, don’t assume that everybody knows who you are or wants to work for you.” Because a lot of the campuses they recruit from we go there as well and that’s where our students come from primarily, but these firms are at a table to find them. The reason for that is these young people don’t come to career fairs. They might not have ever heard of Goldman Sachs, William Blair, never heard of these firms before.
So, they’re not so called interested in what you are doing or they’re not coming to our table at the career fair. Those are the students we focus on because those kids most of the time they don’t have a resume, they have no professional work attire, nobody’s taught them how to network. And those kids are on every campus everywhere. So, those are the students we target. You know, again the ones who lack the social capital and don’t know.
So, the other part of your question is mentorship. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” is what we say. We take our high school students, for example, from a high school program to visit a different company every day for six weeks during the summer. The reason for that is we have to show them people who look like themselves. One of the biggest challenges for Black and Latinx students, particularly from underserved communities in this country, they look around and they don’t see that, right? So, like Katherine was saying, they’re not talking about the markets at the dinner table. Most of the time our students are from single-parent homes, incomes of $40,000 or less household.
So, when they come work for us for six weeks or 10 weeks during the summer, they actually become some of them the highest income earner in the family during that time. We also give every student a funded brokerage account at the end of the summer because our program is more than just an internship. It’s actually teaching them that they can start building generational wealth starting with themselves. The only way to do that in my opinion, is the internship, a funded brokerage account, and teach them how to invest.
So, for us it’s a multi-pronged approach to this. Again, it’s an education process for the students and the firms. Because firms have struggled with this for a long time. As we can see, the industry hasn’t been that diverse for women and people of color, in particular. But, in my opinion, and Greenwood is doing something very different, very radical. I say take the long view here because you can’t wait for these students to be juniors in college to start recruiting them. We start with juniors in high school. So, this is a long-term process.
You won’t necessarily see a return on your investment in Greenwood for a couple of years because and again, this is what I’ve seen, the interview process at these big banks is very unfair to these students. They cannot get through that process on their own, right? Without the help of a Girls Who Invest, Greenwood Project, a ton of mock interviews, a couple internships, and 75% of our alumni college grads have gone on to fulltime rolls and got through those interviews on their own and are doing really well now. So, I think a lot of assumptions have been made by firms in the industry for a long time.
A lot of recruiting at select schools have gone on for generations. We need to upend all that and disrupt the way diversity recruiting is done in the industry.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: And I would add to that too. I agree with everything you just said and the decisions that individuals need to make so early on in even their college experience. So, if you’re a college sophomore approaching your potentially first full summer job ever before your junior year and you’re also expected to at that time be accepting an investment banking offer for the summer before your rising senior year. So, you’re about to go into your first internship ever, and you’re accepting your job offer for your next summer, if you even know how to navigate all of that, right? So, I think that it’s just the pace at which the industry recruits and then what’s expected of you to be a strong recruit and a strong interviewee is an incredibly high bar and very hard to navigate if you’re not familiar with finance.
Hugo Scott-Gall: And finance as an industry overall, doesn’t have a recruitment problem in terms of volume. There’s a lot of applicants to the finance industry. It’s a mix issue isn’t it?
Katherine Jollon Colsher: Completely.
Hugo Scott-Gall: And so, obviously your two organizations are playing a key bridging role, but what are some easy steps employers and hiring companies can make and actually what are some recent innovative best practices you’ve seen from hiring companies?
Bevon Joseph: Well, I think for us, so building the talent pipeline is one thing, keeping them at the firm is another conversation right? So, retention is a big problem. One thing we do is we partner very closely with employee resource groups because we will go out and find the talent, get them ready, train them, bring them to your doorstep. It’s your job as a firm to keep them there. But again, going back to my point of students having to see people who look like themselves doing that, the employee resource groups should be very well funded, be really involved in the recruiting and hiring process.
They should, in my opinion, have a seat on the board actually because those are the folks that wrap their arms around our students when they get there. And those are the people that they can go to outside of their manager or whoever to say, “Hey, I have this question,” and the number one question that our students have is how do I be myself at work in an environment where I don’t see many people who look like me? So, just that alone is a big challenge and might have been overlooked for a long time by a lot of companies, but retention is a big part of it because luckily for us, every student that has gotten a fulltime offer is still there at these firms.
And we at Greenwood Project continue to be a support system for them if they have questions about how do I ask for a raise or a promotion or this issue is going on at work, they can always come to us. We describe Greenwood not as a program but as a family, and young people, especially there’s been a lot of studies done around this Black and Latinx individuals tend to learn really well when they’re learning together and they’re learning from people who look like them. Because again, so many of the challenges are things that we don’t see but they see, and they experience, and they feel.
So, for us, the industry has to do something different if it wants to look different, and they have to also provide a path or a roadmap to Black and Latinx employees who can see themselves rising at the firm—going up, going sideways, traveling. And they also have to be involved in the things that are important to the firm as far as ROI is concerned, as far projects are concerned, deals are concerned. Because we all know the folks who are involved in the high-profile things going on at the firm get the attention, get the recognition, get the mentorship, the sponsorship. So, put them on the high priority items as well. And again, the boardrooms and the C-Level in the industry the numbers there are even more drastic as far as representation.
So, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the pipeline side, but also the retention and the upward mobility and also leadership. We need to see the boards be more diverse.
The last thing I’ll say is our students, when they’re being interviewed now, they’re asking firms, “What does your board look like?” Students are asking—
Katherine Jollon Colsher: That’s great.
Bevon Joseph: “Tell me what your board looks like? Tell me what you’re doing for my community? Why should I work for you?” That’s a whole different shift.
Hugo Scott-Gall: That would not have happened five years ago right?
Bevon Joseph: Never.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: And I think one of the things that Greenwood Project and Girls Who Invest have in common, we have a lot of things in common. One of those things that is most notable is the retention rates we see. So, you’ve already touched on them. At Girls Who Invest, 80% of our women stay in the industry. I mean those are some pretty wow factor numbers between our two respective organizations. So, we’re proving day in and day out that when you recruit talent to a firm, they’ll stay at the firm with all of the retention principles that were just outlined. And I think in terms of, Hugo, you’re asking what can firms do that they’re not doing now? I agree with Bevon completely on everything he said, so I don’t want to duplicate that.
I think the other thing that the industry should start considering at the internship level; again, we’re talking about college sophomores and college juniors feeling like they have to make these career decisions for the next five years, is to offer them a job and not make them accept it right away. We would like to offer you an internship for the following summer, and we would like you to let us know by the end of your current internship if you’re able to accept. That doesn’t seem totally unreasonable to say to somebody, “It’s April; we’d love to know in August if you’d like to come join our firm next year.”
Instead, starting in March through July people have to make decisions about whether or not they want to take internships for the following year when they haven’t gotten their feet wet on their existing internship. They might be getting an offer from the firm where they’re at now and it’s taking the competitiveness out of the industry and it makes it so decisive so early on. So, I think if firms could change their hiring practices, extend offers and then acknowledge that maybe people need a little bit more time to make those offers, I think it would go a long way.
And quite frankly, I think they’re more likely to retain the talent over the long term. Because they’re going to say, “Holy cow, that firm said that I could actually mull this over for three months and get back to them.” Very untraditional, I get it, but I think that it could really help retain people over the long term because they’ll understand the extent to which the firm values their career.
Bevon Joseph: Yeah, I think one thing to add to what Katherine is saying is when, and we’ve asked a lot of firms to do this and they are actually doing it. When you make an offer to a student to join you next summer or whenever that is, why don’t you offer some of the employees to work with that student leading up to their actual start date, right? Because especially, the population we serve, again and a lot of firms are doing this like I said. They’re partnering them with first-year analysts, for example, and say, “Okay, let’s touch base every so often leading up to your actual start date. I can help you understand what I went through, I can tell you what to expect, I can tell you what the day looks like. You can probably come into the office or virtually drop in to see what I do every day,” just to put that student at ease and say, “Okay, now I have a connection there. I know what to expect.”
It really helps a lot because a lot of students again, if this is brand new to them, they’re very intimidated. They might come to an orientation—and this just happened to one of our students. She was at an orientation for a ’21 internship in New York. About 50 students were on the screen and she was the only Latino on the screen, she was the only person of color on the screen. And she called me right away and said, “Listen, Bevon. What do I do here?” And what do we do?
We activate our network at that firm and say, “Listen, this is what’s going on.” We need to deploy employees to help this young lady feel like she won’t be—and she was also not just looking at the faces, but the schools. She was the only one from a non-Ivy League school. She was the only one from a non-East Coast school. She’s coming from Bradley University and that alone almost turned her off. And we had to just put our network and resources to work to just get her through that orientation and the firm is onboard and they understand it and they get it. But those are some of the real world challenges these students are facing.
Hugo Scott-Gall: So, partnering and partnering for months if not years versus just viewing you guys as hugely helpful recruitment aids. That’s what I’m hearing. It actually is the partnership and the length of the partnership and being creative in terms of maximizing resources within a firm, not just, “Hey, be great if you came to work with us. We really want you to work with us.” But actually, “We’re delighted you’ve joined and we’re going to be helping you for a meaningful period of time.” That seems to be a key thing here. When that doesn’t happen, do you see that in attrition rates or failure rates, whichever word you want to use to describe it, but when things haven’t worked out is that usually a common failing then?
Bevon Joseph: Yeah, I think we like to partner, and Girls Who Invest might be the same way, organizations who get the mission. What are we trying to achieve here? We actually do some education and more and more firms in the wake of 2020 have been asking us to do this, come in and teach our employees about your program, about your students. Our program gives every student a mentor for the entire summer and many of them are at that same firm. So, Blair might have 10 or 11 interns this summer. Every student has a mentor at that firm who is not their direct manager and who might be from the employee resource group and so forth.
But I think it’s a lot of the education on the firm side as well but really helping them understand. And I know Girls Who Invest’s model is the training and then the internship and sometimes the timeline doesn’t align with your June 1 start date for your internship. You might have to wait four weeks because with all that training, that student cannot be successful, the firm is not going to get anything out of it. It’s going to fall apart. So, a lot of firms out there say, “Listen, we can’t work with your timeline. It’s this or nothing.” And so, okay that’s fine; it’s nothing because you don’t understand what we’re trying to do here. You don’t understand the population that we serve and the work that it takes.
Because the issue that we’re addressing at Greenwood is a generational issue. It’s a lack of opportunity, it’s a deficit in education, exposure. I mean that does not get solved in one internship. That might take four or five years for that young person to really get up to speed and compete at the level you want them to compete. So, I don’t tell firms that my students are coming in to knock it out of the park in investment banking in three months. That’s not going to happen. But let’s take the long view here, because there’s a ton of students out there and it’s a process and it works. It just takes time.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: It’s also very rewarding for the talent and the firm. It can be, and certainly I feel passionately about this, it can be fun to manage an intern. It can be fun to bring them along. It’s changing the mind shift to I’m going to have an intern this summer where I really want to help, in the case of Girls Who Invest, her shape her career, and that is exciting and rewarding and provides the direct manager, the person overseeing the intern, with an opportunity to really help be a resource for that individual as opposed to wow, there’s a lot of work this summer. I need this person to hit the ground running. I need them to code, I need them to model, I need to make sure that they’re going to be taking work off my plate this summer, I want to go on my August vacation, right?
Human instincts I get it, but at the same time interns should not simply be grounds to recruit people to full-time hire. Great, we all want that to happen. I want nothing more than all of our women to get recruited full-time, but they shouldn’t be tested on day one of their internship for a full-time job, and they shouldn’t be expected to have every skill that an East Coast Ivy League student would have going into that internship. And that’s an unfair bar. The flip side of that is it’s pretty cool to mentor somebody who comes in and says, “I want to learn. I want to know a lot about this,” and has, quite frankly, in a very amazing way a world view and a life experience that can teach us all a lot about our own lives.
And to wear that hat as a manager I think is very rewarding for employees and they’ll get a lot out of it. And then they’re going to fight for that intern to get hired. So, it’s making that match early on. I’m always confident once we get the partnership in place, that the intern’s going to demonstrate the return on investment in terms of why the firm wants to do this and that direct line manager is going to end up fighting to the finish for that talent because it’s a rewarding experience on both ends as opposed to a practical internship that’s all about checking boxes and where somebody ends up in two years.
Bevon Joseph: And I think to Katherine’s point of employees managing interns and it being fun, we recruit a ton of industry professionals as mentors and volunteers. And the thing that excites them and draws them to Greenwood is they get to mentor from a position of strength. So, they’ll meet a portfolio manager at William Blair, get to know what they do and then tell them, “I want to have your job one day. Can you help me figure out what that looks like?” And that person gets excited. We had so many volunteers from so many firms last summer who told us, “Listen, you’re bringing us students who want to have our jobs,” which is fine because that’s the next generation, right?
To Katherine’s point it’s not always about who can end up at your firm. It’s about the ripple effect an internship can have on these young people and their families and the communities. The average starting salary of our full-time students is like $60,000 to $65,000. Nobody in their family has ever made that money before. Nobody in their family is investing, right? So, think about that because when I talk to firms I say, “It’s great to partner with us, but let me tell you exactly the impact you will have on this one student,” and again, the ripple effect of that partnership is what really gets all our corporate partners excited, and the employees really want to engage with us as well.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, 100%, 100%. Always hire someone who wants to take your job, I think. So, changing tact. I always ask this question, I’ve certainly been asking, well, I don’t always ask it, I’ve been asking for the last year or so, which is to talk a bit about COVID-19. I hope that pretty soon I won’t have to ask this question, but how has it impacted what you’re doing? But actually, more importantly, how’s it impacted the expectations and the outlook of some of your students in their view of work? Is their view of work now different? And previously, I thought okay, pretty daunting perhaps going to an office five days a week where I feel or indeed am, I feel different from everybody else.
Does that change in a world where we might be physically less together, where there might be a move towards hybrid working, sometimes in the same physical location, sometimes just together digitally? Does that make it more daunting, less daunting, less attractive, more attractive? I’m not sure. I’m just wondering what you think.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: I think this is a generation for so many reasons, right? Gen-Z specifically, that we need to pay a lot of attention to. They are not going to be convinced that an in-office culture is ever 100% necessary. They have completed high school with cars driving down their streets honking their horns so they could graduate. They have missed their junior years in person. We can come up with all the different scenarios. This is a population of people who had to adapt, who had to say literally overnight, “I’m not going back to school. I have to figure out how to move out of my dorm room.” They’re used to getting medically tested; a pace that was unfathomable even a year ago.
So, they’ve changed the workplace and the world needs to recognize that. It might take us until their mid-career to fully accept that, but I think all evidence shows and signals this is a population of people that’s going to say, “I remember if I could do this in my high school, or if I could do this in my first internship ever, I can assure you I can figure out how to do XYZ remotely.” So, I think that to some extent we have five-ten years to catch up with the rest of the world. But like everybody else, we pivoted our model and our education program to virtual overnight last year. I think it was certainly stressful on everybody and I don’t want to minimize that, but the group that adapted the fastest was our intern population.
They said, “Okay, we’re going to be on Zoom, we’re going to make it work, we’re going to give you feedback, we’re going to use the chat function, we’re not going to stumble on how to log in every day like the rest of you.” They just adapted and they’re teaching us a lot this summer. They’re comfortable giving feedback. We teach them to speak up and to provide feedback; they do that in droves. So, just like millennials very much shifted the workforce in so many ways, I think Gen-Z has been given that much more momentum to do so in a way that’s going to be incredibly powerful.
Bevon Joseph: Yeah, I agree 100%. Our young people adapted really quickly. Technology is second nature to them, so we made the move really early to virtual last summer. It went really well. We’ve already decided to be virtual this summer already. But to Katherine’s point, on the firm side, some firms are telling us because we also partner with all the FinTech companies and they’re calling themselves remote first. And our young people are saying again, “We can do this work from anywhere. Going into the office is great. I would like to meet my co-workers one day in person, but I don’t see the need to be there every day.”
I keep telling them they’re getting a good taste of the future of work because I don’t think the world is going to really be the same or normal as it was before or given how we went through our careers. So, for our young people in Greenwood, they’ve adapted. We have 86 college students working this summer. They’re from all over the country. They’re working for companies all over this United States and about four companies in London as well. So, they’re adjusting to different time zones and all that stuff. Hopefully, when things open up, we’ll be sending them to other cities as well too. But we haven’t missed a beat with COVID, and our young people haven’t either.
Again, they’re learning remotely, they’re working remotely, and they’re all in. We haven’t seen a drop off in participation. We understand Zoom fatigue is a real thing and so, we kinda start our day with breaks and other stuff to keep them occupied. But yeah, COVID actually has not really impacted us in a big way and our young people are adapting pretty quickly.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Cool. So, I’ve got two more questions for each of you. So, the first one is I guess what’s next? Both of your organizations have been really successful. In five years’ time what would you want to say, here’s what we did. Here’s the thing I’d hope we’d do, and you know what, we did it.
So, Katherine, you first.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: I think for us right now we have 515 alumni who’ve gone through our summer intensive program, which is the four weeks of education plus the six-week paid internship. This summer’s class is 176 women. So, in five years time, we have women full-time approaching the do you go to business school, do not go to business school, the fork in the road multiple times over. My hope is that we’ve proven that those women are going to continue to be retained in the industry, they’re going to continue to stay in the industry. Unbelievably confident that people are going to be calling us up and saying, “Did you know so-and-so was a Girls Who Invest scholar? Did you have any idea?”
“Of course, we did. We’ve been working with her for the past however many years.” So, I think the Rolodex that’s coming out of our respective organizations and the attractiveness of being associated with the Girls Who Invest alumni pool recruiting from the Girls Who Invest alumni pool is only going to grow, and I think that positions us to be a thought leader within the industry on all the things we’re talking about; hiring best practices, retention best practices, having conversations that advance women in their careers and help them stay in organizations. My goal is for people to stay in the investment manage industry, but I partner with 105 firms who want people to stay at their firms.
So, there is a balance from there on. So, my expectation is that our women will stay, that we’ll be an echo chamber for what needs to happen in order for those retention marks to be as high as they are, and that we’re literally advancing women’s careers and people are saying, “Holy, cow. This is achievable.” Thirty percent of the world’s investments by 2030 is within reach.
Bevon Joseph: Yeah, I think for us we have a plan to increase the number of students year-over-year. We’re expanding to multiple cities in the United States. We run our high school program exclusively in Chicago right now that’s very grass roots, but we’ve been invited to Boston, New York, Denver, LA, Kansas City, to replicate our high school program, and we’re very excited to do that as well. But for me, personally, it’s all about the students. It’s all about understanding the impact—the ripple effect; I keep saying ripple effect, the ripple effect of the job, the internship, the opportunity. Because when these people grow up, the words generational wealth does not exist in their vocabulary when they meet us.
At the end of the summer they’re talking about that and they’re talking about it at home at the dinner table with their parents for the very first time, and their parents want to get involved and start investing.
So, for me it’s really about how many students can we reach because we know that the pool is unlimited. How many corporate partners can we get on board? How many William Blair’s, Goldman Sachs’ can we get onboard because we’re serving a two-sided market here. We’re almost like a market maker in the middle, introducing both sides and educating them and having them meet each other because there’s been such a big gap between the corporate partners and the firms for so long. Firms want to do well. They want to do good and do well at the same time. They just have not been able to reach this population and the population doesn’t know about the firm and the opportunities.
So, that’s where we step in. The Girls Who Invest, the Greenwood Project, and other organizations like us. We know we can’t do this by ourselves, so we’re glad to partner with a lot of other non-profits. In the City of Chicago, they actually pipeline their kids to us. We just partnered with the Chicago Public School System, which gives us close to 100,000 kids to pull from for our high school program. So, the sky’s the limit as far as the number of kids we can reach. You know, Greenwood Project exists. Our namesake is actually the Greenwood Community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was known as the Black Wall Street.
This year is the 100 Centennial of the massacre that took place there. And we named our organization just because we want to educate our kids again about generational wealth and the legacy in the spirit of that community, and when we meet our young people many have never that story. A lot of adults have never heard that story, but it really means so much more to our young people when they understand why we’re doing this and they’re part of something that’s bigger than them.
Again, firms are onboard. In the wake of the George Floyd situation and Black Lives Matter, we got a ton of firms that came to us and they’re still coming to us and that’s great, and they want to help. But if you really want to help Greenwood Project and organizations like Girls Who Invest, again partner with us for five years, not one year. Five years at a minimum and invest in what we’re doing because this works. As Katherine will tell you, it is very expensive, it’s very time consuming, it’s very hard work. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s the most rewarding because kids will call me on a weekly basis and say, “Bevon, I just got an offer from Piper Sandler, I’m moving to New York.”
I’m like, “Well, did you tell your parents about this?” He’s like, “No, I called you first.” And when you get that call, trust me, you can’t pay me enough to do this job. It’s the most rewarding thing ever because you get to see the impact of your work in real time. So, I can never go back to a so-called nine to five anymore because these young people, their lives are being changed. Their communities and their families’ lives are being changed. And for me it is how many of those students can we reach in five, 10, or 15 years with so many corporate partners onboard to make that happen.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Okay, so I think maybe this might be the most important question I’ve asked you and I’ll ask you both is how does anyone listening who wants to be involved or indeed anyone listening who knows someone who thinks they might want to be involved, how do they do it? So, Bevon first, how do people get in contact with you and then the same question goes to you, Katherine.
Bevon Joseph: Yeah, definitely check our website at greenwoodproject.org. We’re on social media @greenwoodprochi on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I’m on LinkedIn. You know you can’t shut me up about Greenwood. I’m posting something every single day. We’ve got so many stories to tell. But for firms who are listening to this, open up your doors and give our young people a chance. We will find the young people, we’ll get them ready, we’ll meet with you and educate you about our mission on how you can help and really support. Invest in us as well.
Again, we’re a nonprofit. As Katherine will tell you, fundraising every single day pretty much, but we’re looking for those firms, those individuals, the foundations who want to invest in our young people and help them be successful. So, definitely feel free to reach out to us and employee engagement volunteering. We always have a need for volunteers. We do this work with an army of volunteers, I tell people. And so, if you want to get involved to mentor or volunteer or help a young person this summer or down the road, please reach out to us.
You can also sign up on our website, but definitely no shortage of ways for firms and individuals to get involved.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: What Bevon said, love it. That was all spot on, and girlswhoinvest.org would be how to reach us. I welcome people to reach out to me on LinkedIn as well and partner firms can contact us. And if you know of a college sophomore who you’d like to encourage to apply to Girls Who Invest, please do and a reminder that we welcome women of all geographies, all backgrounds, all majors. So, it’s not about thinking about a finance or an econ major who might want to go into investment management. It’s thinking about a talented young woman who you want to introduce to an amazing career and then we’ll carry the torch forward to introduce them to asset management specifically.
But we love to meet women across the country who are interested, and we love to speak to them day in and day out. So, they can literally apply at girlswhoinvest.org, but for also those who are listening, if they can encourage people to apply that means a lot to us.
Hugo Scott-Gall: Brilliant, fantastic. Well, we end with the most important thing, I think, but that was great. I really enjoyed it. I want to thank you both for coming on the show. It was super interesting and really, really uplifting. So, thank you both very, very much.
Bevon Joseph: Thanks, Hugo.
Katherine Jollon Colsher: Thanks, Hugo.
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