When Nora Everett began college at Iowa State University, she initially chose physical education as a major because she wanted to be a coach. But after she got a less-than-desired B in soccer while earning A’s in her academic courses, she reconsidered her career choice and gravitated toward law school. 

Everett, who began her career at Principal Financial Group as an attorney, climbed the ladder to deputy general counsel, to senior vice president and then CEO of Principal Funds. Last year she was promoted to president of Retirement and Income Solutions and chairman of Principal Funds. 

“I’m pretty passionate about the work that we do,” she said. “In the U.S., many folks are going to be looking to their 401(k) for their retirement savings. That’s the business we’re in, helping literally millions of folks here in the U.S. to have saved enough for retirement. And then once they’re in retirement, also serving those folks to make sure they don’t outlive their savings.” 

With her colleague Deanna Strable, Everett co-founded the Principal Women’s Network for Leaders. “One of the things we knew from our own experience is that networking is just critical in creating more relationships,” Everett said. “We identified that as an opportunity to rally around that and really create not just opportunities to network amongst ourselves but also on a broader basis in the community. It definitely has grown and evolved.”  

Everett continues to enjoy serving as a role model and mentor to both women and men at Principal, and also co-chairs the Principal Diversity Council. “One of the things I really enjoy at this stage in my career is coaching. I find folks I’m interested in helping in their career; I really enjoy it.” 

Co-chairing United Way’s 100th anniversary campaign also means a lot to Everett. “It’s done a tremendous job here in Central Iowa of facilitating a partnership between the nonprofit community, the corporate community and public government,” she said. 

“That partnership is very deliberate about addressing the systemic issues — financial stability, health and education. These are big, complex causes. The beauty of being in a community like this where people are willing to work across disciplines to address these issues, we’re going to see tremendous progress on issues that are almost impossible to address in other communities.” 

An avid reader, Everett recently picked up “Humans of New York: Stories” by Brandon Stanton during a trip to New York. “He not only snapped photos of all these people, but also asked them a couple of questions to write a paragraph about them. It’s fascinating because everybody has a story, no matter what walk of life they’re from.” 

Three areas of influence:

  1. She has been a consistent leadership role model throughout more than 25 years at Principal, where she is now one of just two women ever appointed to a divisional president role.
  2. She is active in community organizations, among them the Chrysalis Foundation, Young Women’s Resources, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and the Women’s Leadership Council. 
  3. She serves on the United Way of Central Iowa board of directors and is co-chairing the organization’s 100th anniversary annual campaign. 

Words to live by:

“Work hard, be kind and avoid cynicism.” — Conan O’Brien