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Featured Profile
By mike nicholas, bda

A BDA Led Conversation with Leaders at Women in Public Finance

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Women in Public Finance (WPF) is a non-profit professional networking organization for women in the public finance industry. Founded in 1997, WPF serves state and local government debt issuers, not-for-profit issuers, investment bankers, attorneys, financial advisors, rating agency analysts, bond insurers, and trust officers, among others.
Mission: We seek to advance women’s leadership opportunities by fostering relationships and providing educational activities and forums.
WPF serves its members through its national organization and 22 chapters across the nation. WPF is governed by a 19-member volunteer Board of Directors made up of women of diverse backgrounds in various stages of their careers within the public finance profession. Several WPF leaders answer questions below about how WPF implements its mission.

WPF Organizationally:

Mike Nicholas, CEO of BDA: Regardless of size and location, what is the common theme that drives chapter leaders to volunteer their time and lead the local organization? What have you learned about these leaders since taking on the role of working with all 22+ chapters across the country?
Name: Kayla MacEwen, Director Firm: Masterson Advisors LLC Position with WPF: VP, Chapters Committee
MacEwen: Women in Public Finance, whether it be the organization as a whole or by chapter, creates this sense of community for its members. It is truly a volunteer effort for all involved which enables us to have an immense amount of respect for one another. This community has given women the capacity and support to progress in this historically male dominated industry. Once that support is experienced and realized, the organization gives us a platform to give back and help mentor the next generation.
As Treasurer of the Boston chapter, I have my own experiences leading on the chapter level. But with my role as Vice President of Chapters, I quickly realized how different each chapter really is in terms of tenure, size, and internal support. Each chapter has their own goals and challenges, and we take great value in learning from one another. What works for one chapter may not for another and our role is to help makes those idea and support connections to help chapters to continue to grow.
BDA: Please outline what brought you to WPF and why you would encourage others to join as members.
Name: Christine Pihl, Managing Director | Municipal Finance Firm: RBC Capital Markets, LLC Position with WPF: Chair, Membership Committee
Pihl: WPF provides the unique and wonderful opportunity for women to network with other women. It is a given that networking helps a career, and it is understood that if you connect with someone on a personal level, you will benefit directly or indirectly from that relationship. Because women are in the minority in public finance, especially on the provider side, there are relatively limited opportunities for these types of connections to occur in the everyday workplace in the same way that they exist for men.
As the Membership Committee Chair, it is my goal to expand our national network. With this in mind, at RBC Capital Markets, we launched an internal WPF network this year, across our Municipal Finance platform that includes 50+ women. This network has allowed women to develop relationships across titles and geography which would not have occurred without a dedicated WPF network. As a result, this year, RBC will more than double its participation in WPF on a national level and at the National WPF Annual Conference, the networking highlight of the year. The networking opportunities that WPF creates fosters professional and personal connections that otherwise wouldn’t exist for women.
BDA: In what ways are issuers supported by WPF and how can issuers support women and increased diversity in the field of public finance?
Name: Tina Wilson, CPA, Deputy CFO Firm: City of Atlanta Position with WPF: Issuer Board Member
Wilson: WPF demonstrates its support for issuers by making its presence visible at events, email campaigns, and a broad newsletter audience. WPF has several ways to uplift women through mentorship and scholarship opportunities that showcase their dedication to not only issuers but to highlight women in a predominately male-dominated field. This also demonstrates a need being met by bringing vast experience and expertise to young women ripe for development to establish a roadmap to fulfilling careers in public finance.
Issuers can support women by partnering in deals with women-owned and women-led firms. They can also implement and ensure WBE goals as part of issuance teams and compare best practices and benchmarks with other issuers and across markets. Issuers can increase diversity by employing more women staff and professionals. To attract the best talent, they can offer flexible work schedules, address pay inequities, focus on development and promotion in early management, improve parental leave, and provide unconscious bias training. This demonstrates an intentional platform for women’s voices to be heard and promotes empowerment to foster meaningfulness and enjoyment in the workplace.
WPF Flagship Event – the Annual Conference:
BDA: You must be thrilled to host the 26th Annual WPF Conference. How long have you been attending these conferences and what keeps you coming back?
Name: Erika Coombs, SVP | Public Finance Investment Banking Firm: Piper Sandler & Co. Position with WPF: Former WPF Board Member, President of WPF Mountain Region Chapter and 2022 Annual Conference Host
Coombs: Thrilled is an understatement, I love this organization and what it stands for. Women in Public Finance has been a constant uplifting source in my career. My first conference was in 2014, it was a game changer to hear Sallie Krawcheck speak, share and encourage the group to support and uplift women in the field by reaching out to others with open arms. Prior to attending the conference, I had not seen many senior women in public finance banking roles. It shifted my mentality; I became an advocate for women in leadership positions. WPF has inspired me in so many ways professionally and personally. The community and the mission of the organization keeps me coming back. The year after the conference, I applied to be on WPF Board and started the Mountain Region Chapter. Since then, I have been on the Board for Arizona Women Leading Government and am very active in the Government Finance Officers Association Women in Public Finance Network.
The conference this year is at a boutique hotel, and we will be the only group at the hotel on Thursday. Please join us as we have a lot of unique experiences planned. Registration is open for the September 2022 conference. Please visit our website to register today.

Programs to support career growth and networking:

BDA: Please talk about how you have expanded the mentorship program over the past two years, what benefits have you added?
Name: Elizabeth Funk, Managing Director | Municipal Underwriting Firm: Mesirow Financial Position with WPF: Chair, Mentorship Committee
Funk: The Women in Public Finance Mentorship Program has more than doubled in size over the past two years. We all have the pandemic to thank for welcoming Zoom and other electronic communication as the “new normal” which has allowed us to open up our pairing process more broadly across the country as well as host events that can be attended from anywhere.
Included in the program application, we ask that applicants designate their pairing preferences by ranking importance of location, work/life, role within public finance, amongst others. The Hybrid atmosphere using electronic platforms, in addition to in-person options, has allowed more weight to be put on those preferences. The committee can now pair someone in CA with someone in NY because they are at the same point in their careers, or applicants within the same city so they can meet for coffee. This has been instrumental in growing the program.
In early 2020, in attempt to foster connection in a remote environment, the Mentorship Committee instituted quarterly zoom happy hours. These are supplemental to the individual Mentor/Mentee pairs and have served as a great way for everyone to have more exposure to the whole program, pairs to share ideas amongst each other, as well an opportunity for the whole program to hear from guest speakers about how mentorship has shaped their careers.
BDA: Are there certain themes on which you focus when you develop content for the educational webinars provided by WPF?
Name: Kathleen Bowe, VP | Government Banker Firm: J.P. Morgan Position with WPF: Chair, Education Committee
Bowe: When planning our educational events, we strive for a balance between technical, industry-relevant topics and leadership and professional development training. We recently hosted a dynamic panel on cybersecurity. We selected this topic based on direct feedback from our members that this training is interesting and necessary in an ever-evolving cybersecurity environment. Our presenters included subject matter experts from the private sector and issuers who could speak candidly about the threats they are facing within their organizations, how to prepare for an attack, and how to respond when an attack occurs.
Our upcoming educational webinar scheduled for later this summer is designed to support women in our industry in pursuing leadership opportunities. The current job market presents tremendous growth opportunities to jobseekers, and it is important that women are taking advantage of the ability to advance within their organizations or by seeking outside opportunities. We seek to offer real, tactical steps that women can take to position themselves for advancement as well as the confidence to stretch for higher responsibility roles.

BDA: WPF is founded on the idea that there were not enough women in the room during public finance discussions and deals. Please discuss what positive steps WPF is taking to address this issue that the founders faced and capture an ever-broader audience. Name: Patricia Rodriguez, SVP Firm: Loop Capital Position with WPF: Chair, DEI Subcommittee of Education Committee
Rodriguez: While over the last several decades, the number of women in public finance has increased, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). WPF wants to help educate and advocate on behalf of all women in the public finance industry, including Issuers, Attorneys, Bankers and others involved in the process. However, not only do women want to be in the industry, but we also want to have Equity in terms of pay and opportunities, in the industry. So, WPF will continue to educate our members and allies about the current state of women in public finance such as: the lack of female Managing Directors and Heads of Public Finance, still lagging in number of women of color in the industry and last, but not least, the pay disparity between females and males across all occupations in the industry. By engaging our allies and members through webinars, conferences and conversations we hope to be the leader in positive change for all Women in Public Finance.

Building the pipeline of women professionals in public finance:

BDA: Who is eligible to apply for a WPF scholarship and what are the key character traits that make one stand out in the crowd of applicants?
Name: Jessica Lamendola, SVP Firm: Sycamore Advisors, LLC Position with WPF: Chair, Scholarship Committee
Lamendola: In line with the WPF mission to support the careers of women in the field of public finance, WPF has a growing scholarship program both at the national and chapter levels. The WPF National Scholarship recognizes women that are either college bound (undergraduate and graduate) or are looking to improve their career potential through industry specific certifications that have a demonstrated academic achievement and leadership. A committee of volunteers review the applications and score each applicant. The application includes transcripts, an essay, and a short statement on the applicant’s interest in public finance. An applicant who is curious about a career in public finance and through previous experience, academic record, or community involvement will stand out in the review process. The scholarship is a valuable way to encourage women to consider the field of public finance. Recipients are announced at the annual conference in September. We encourage all people that identify as a woman, are interested in the field of public finance, and are looking to advance their professional skills to apply for the scholarship.
BDA: What values drive this organization and why should people step up to a board leadership position?
Name: Angelique David, Executive Managing Director, Chief Operating Officer, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Firm: Ziegler Position with WPF: VP, Board Development and Governance
David: Women in public finance is driven by innovation, collaboration, diversity and sisterhood! Our leadership focuses on these values as we strive to fulfill our mission of supporting and advancing the careers of women in our sector. We are always looking for amazing women who can roll up their sleeves and help us continue to move the organization forward!
WPF Board Executive Committee