Janet Cowell - Chief Executive OfficeR

Janet-Cowell- headshot.jpg

Janet Cowell is Chief Executive Officer for Girls Who Invest. Passionate about serving others, Cowell held publicly elected offices in North Carolina for fifteen years prior to joining Girls Who Invest. The first woman elected State Treasurer, she managed over $100 billion in assets, and health and retirement benefits, for over 900,000 members. During her eight years as Treasurer, Cowell consistently achieved exceptional results and national recognition: she maintained North Carolina’s AAA bond rating—one of only ten states with a AAA bond rating from all three rating agencies—and grew pension assets from $60 to $90 billion, achieving an eight-year return of over 7.5 percent.

Cowell also believes in the power of education. She chairs the Executive Education Board of the Wharton School of Business. During her time as Treasurer, she was a member of the North Carolina Community College Board and State School Board.

Prior to public service, Cowell held positions in the private sector in the U.S. and abroad. She was a securities analyst for Lehman Brothers and HSBC in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, and a business consultant with Sibson & Company working with U.S. Fortune 500 companies.

Cowell serves on the boards of James River Group Insurance (NASDAQ: JRVR), Channel Advisor (NYSE:ECOM), and international human development agency FHI360, in addition to volunteering for various non-profits. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and earned her MBA and MA in International Studies from the Wharton School of Business and the Lauder Institute.


Debra Somers has held various roles in finance and recruiting for the last 13 years. Somers most recently was the Program Director of Portfolio Recruiting at Vista Equity Partners where she implemented recruiting-related best practices at the private equity firm's 25+ portfolio companies globally. She also managed a team that recruited for key roles at those portfolio companies as well as Vista Equity Partners and Vista Consulting Group. Prior to Vista, Somers managed the Campus Recruiting efforts for the Investment Banking Department at Credit Suisse. 

Somers started her career in finance as an Investment Banking Analyst at Deutsche Bank followed by five years at Credit Suisse where she was a Vice President in Equity Capital Markets Origination focused on technology companies. Somers graduated from Georgetown University with a B.S. in Finance. She enjoys traveling, running, wine and is passionate about empowering women in the financial sector. 


Lara Azzam - head of programs

Lara Azzam has worked in the telecommunications sector in sales and marketing since 1991. Early in Azzam’s career, she gained extensive marketing experience including customer communications, direct acquisition and retention marketing, marketing strategy and marketing campaign performance analysis. Following those years, she moved into sales and sales operations. She was responsible for business process redesign and the development of a web based work-flow management application for a high technology sales organization. Most recently, she has provided B2B business development for clients.

Azzam founded the U.S. operation for Team Business and is responsible for launching the Team Business product portfolio in the U.S. marketplace. She holds an MBA from Wharton Business School and a Masters in International Studies from Lauder Institute.

Katie Morrissey- Director of Operations

Cindy Esparragoza- Program Administrator 

Elle Dunlap- Program Coordinator