Women in Public Finance marks its 25th anniversary with a return to its Chicago roots for a hybrid in-person and remote conference in September.
WPF will recognize the recipients of its annual Founders Awards. Michigan Treasurer Rachael Eubanks will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; Suzanne Beitel, a senior vice president and chief financial officer at Seattle Children’s Hospital, will receive the She’s Our Hero award; and Danielle Scott, a senior managing consultant at PFM Group Consulting LLC, will receive the Rising Star Award.
Founded in Chicago, Women in Public Finance started out with a focus on the Midwest. The organization drew about 75 mostly local professionals to its first conference with hundreds now in regular attendance.
It’s evolved over the years into a national membership-based outfit with at least 1000 members and 24 local chapters across the country and is governed by an 18-member board.
The organization will host its 25th annual conference at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Chicago on Thursday Sept. 23rd and 24th. The in-person conference also offers a virtual registration option that provides access to all of the conference content, networking opportunities and online cocktails.
“This year’s conference is all about being stronger together, celebrating the triumphs of the past 25 years and creating a future of possibilities,” the group says.
Diversity efforts and best practices, the state of women in the public finance field, and an update on Puerto Rico are on the agenda.
After the conference programming, the group will host a reception for its annual Founders’ Awards, which is can be purchased separately from the conference and men typically join in on, and has several post-conference activities lined up for Friday including a downtown Chicago River cruise.
The event marks a return to an in-person event after WPF staged a virtual gathering last year.
There is at present no vaccine or COVID-19 test requirement for in-person attendees at the WPF conference. The city’s current guidelines, updated as of Aug. 20, require masking indoors.
The planners are monitoring Centers for Disease Control updates and guidelines along with state and local guidelines which will be followed and can adapt the schedule with the health and safety of attendees in mind, said Jennifer Fredericks, who serves on the WPF board as vice president of conference.
Fredericks recently left BNY Mellon where she was vice president of business development to join Ice Miller as director of sales for public finance.
“We ran our planning with the goal that any one attending virtually has an equivalent experience as someone attending in person,” Fredericks said. “We are prepared to meet the needs of in-person or virtual attendees.”
To accommodate potential concerns some attendees might have about staying overnight in a hotel if they are not within driving distance or for those with child care demands, planners opted to hold the Founders Awards reception in tandem with the single-day conference.
The quarter-century celebration marks a milestone and while the conference celebrates the group’s goal of advancing women in the field and goals moving forward, Fredericks also sees the event as a chance to celebrate making it through the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were so many challenges for women” like juggling child care and home schooling in addition to managing their careers, Fredericks said. “Despite all of the challenges last year, women made a lot of progress. The depth and breadth of women leaders continues to grow. It’s exciting that Women in Public Finance has making a difference for 25 years and we look forward to many joining us to celebrate in person.”
Keynote speakers include Natalie Jaresko, executive director and interim revitalization coordinate for the Financial Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico; Citi Chief Executive Officer Jane Fraser; and Anna Akbari, sociologist, writer and entrepreneur. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will also speak.
In 2010, the group amended its bylaws to recognize regional chapters and affiliates and include professionals from all over the U.S. in order to facilitate regional activities that compliment nationally focused activities.
In 2015, the group sought to broaden its reach and refresh its mission with a new strategic plan that included rotating the location of the annual conference and requiring more board members come from local chapters.
The group describes its mission as being “to support and advance the careers of women in public finance by fostering relationships and networking, and providing educational and learning activities and forums.”
The organization and its various chapters currently host conferences, luncheon discussions on public finance and other topics, and offers educational opportunities, scholarships, mentorship, and provide other charitable support. Members span the issuer, and buy and sell sides.
WPF’s founders — recently retired financial advisor Courtney Shea, former Chicago CFO and financial advisor Lois Scott, retired Standard & Poor’s senior managing director Sarah Eubanks, who is the mother of Rachel Eubanks, and consultant Nancy Remar — launched the awards about 16 years ago.
The lifetime recognition honors a woman involved in the field for more than 10 years who has consistently demonstrated skill, drive, integrity, and vision. The “She’s Our Hero Award” recognizes a woman for her management of career, self-development, family, and civic involvement. The “Rising Star Award” recognizes a woman involved in the field for 10 years or less whose work demonstrates skill and intelligence that will have a long-term impact in the field.
The aim is to recognize women with a range of experience for their contributions to the field. The founders, along with past recipients of the awards, review new and past nominations to make their annual selections.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer named Rachel Eubanks Michigan’s 47th treasurer in 2019. In 2016 she was appointed by then-Gov. Rick Snyder to serve on the Michigan Public Service Commission. The treasurer serves as the state’s chief financial officer overseeing the collection, investment, and disbursement of all state monies, and also administers major tax laws, safeguards the credit of the state, and distributes revenue sharing monies to local units of government.
Eubanks also serves on various boards and commissions including the Michigan Finance Authority, Michigan Strategic Fund, and Detroit Financial Review Commission and is a member of the state revenue estimating conference.
Prior to that role, Eubanks worked for 10 years as an advisor at Robert W. Baird. Eubanks is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Beitel joined Seattle Children’s in 2017 as its top fiscal officer after a 24-year career in banking at JPMorgan.
“Ever since she was a child life volunteer at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Beitel has been interested in applying her skills in an organization that focuses on providing the best care for children,” the hospital says on its website.
In her free time, Beitel runs. She has completed five marathons and many more half-marathons. Beitel, who also enjoys traveling and skiing with her family, earned her bachelor’s degree from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Scott, based in New Orleans, joined PFM six years ago and in addition to her work as a managing consultant with PFM’s Management and Budget Consulting practice is co-director of PFM’s Center for Budget Equity and Innovation. Scott specializes in projects where the firm provides equity, budgetary, and financial analysis, reviews municipal operations and develops multi-year financial plans to help municipal governments overcome their fiscal challenges.
Next year’s conference is scheduled to take place in Scottsdale, Arizona.