Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey, shared her experience as a woman in politics with over 375 attendees at this year’s Women in Public Finance conference, which recently convened in Chicago.

The first – and to date, only – female governor of New Jersey, Whitman served as governor of New Jersey from 1994-2001, and then as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001-2003. She is currently president of The Whitman Strategy Group, a sustainability consulting firm specializing in environmental issues.

In her address, she focused on energy and environmental issues, but also discussed how she balanced being a working mother in the political realm.

Jane Bryant Quinn, Contributing Editor of Newsweek Magazine and Columnist for, addressed the conference as a featured speaker. Her presentation focused on the state of the national economy and individuals’ investment decisions in the context of a weakening economy.

The conference also included a panel discussion on the energy crisis. Panelists, who included a municipal issuer, two rating agency analysts, and an underwriter, considered new funding mechanisms for growing capital plans, risks to energy funding, credit implication of rising costs, alternative energy sources and the future of prepaid gas transactions.

Women in Public Finance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing educational and networking opportunities to professional women in the municipal finance industry. The group also sponsors a variety of philanthropic efforts, from fundraisers for abused women’s shelters to scholarships for college-bound women with an interest in finance.

Melanie A.J. Shaker, Director of Fitch Ratings in the U.S. Public Finance Group, and President of Women in Public Finance, explains that while women in the industry have the same focus as their male counterparts, they do often face a different set of challenges.

Balancing the responsibilities of work and motherhood is a topic that often comes up in these forums, she says. “It is still true that women often fill the role of primary caregiver, even in a two-parent home, which is not always the case.” Other challenges include interruptions in career paths due to having children and equality issues related to compensation.