The School of Public and Environmental Affairs Public Finance Association organized a Women in Public Finance panel Wednesday night to educate students about issues of public finance and career opportunities. Five professionals from Fifth Third Securities, JP Morgan and Barnes & Thornburg, among other organizations, came to speak.
“This is one event in a series of events to say that finance isn’t that scary,” PFA former vice president Alex Luboff said.
Several of the women who spoke on the panel are lawyers or consultants and have experience doing something with public finance outside of just policy. PFA has a committee devoted to women in public finance, which was founded this year, and they paired with the national Women in Public Finance Association.
“The Women in Public Finance Association is a national organization whose mission is helping women involved in public finance careers and issues to network,” said Taylor Paton, founder of the women in public finance committee. “The national committee started in the Midwest and is based in Chicago.”
Although this event focused on women in public finance, PFA events are open to all students. Both graduate and undergraduate students comprise the group, but the leaders are SPEA Masters students.
“None of our events are limited,” PFA president Lauron Fischer said. “Our events are to promote the organization and try to get people involved in our organization or other clubs we have in SPEA.”
Luboff said the connection between graduate and undergraduate students is helpful because there is some perspective that graduates students bring with them. He said it makes for a good mixture for starting conversations.
“It is about taking advantage of resources and personal connections in a good way,” Fischer said. “We hope that people have an outlet to discuss public finance issues as well as learn about some different careers they may not have known of before.”
In addition, PFA is working to show how different academic backgrounds transfer into public finance. Fischer said to be an effective policy maker, for example, she has to be fluent in public finance and the issues surrounding finance.
“Another goal of PFA is to bring people knowledge and awareness of other professional organizations,” Paton said.
Luboff said one of the things they have struggled with in the past is that people think the group is just for women, partially because the past three presidents of PFA have all been women.
“Stereotypically, public finance is not a female-driven area,” Fischer said.
Although women do not dominate the public finance industry, Paton said there are organizations that are interested in advancing networking organizations and women’s groups for male-dominated industries.
“There has been an increase in reinforcing the value of women’s professional groups and networking, because women have a different idea of inclusion, work place diversity and employee interaction than males do,” Paton said.
Luboff said when it comes to solving public issues, only recently have there been terms like sustainable or green finance. He said women have made a noticeable difference in public finance, even if they are not necessarily at the top of the industry.
“I think the innovation in public finance is so recent, which probably has a lot to do with women coming into the field that was traditionally dominated by men,” Luboff said. “When you bring in new perspectives you are going to have new things happen.”
Fischer said a lot of people say they aren’t interested in public finance. However, she said it is something everyone can use.
“If you pay taxes, you are interested in public finance,” Luboff said.