Recorded on 05/26/2021

Bridging the Gender Gap with First Women’s Bank

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Recorded May 26, 2021.

Women are leading an economic revolution in the United States. The number of women-owned businesses is growing two times faster than the national average, but there is a pervasive and persistent challenge – just as there are gender gaps in leadership and in pay, there is a gender gap in access to capital. First Women’s Bank is forming to help bridge that gap.

In this program, hear from Marianne Markowitz, CEO of First Women’s Bank and Melissa Widen, the Bank’s Co-Founder and Chief Administrative Officer, about the women’s economy, the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on women business owners and the Bank’s mission to grow the economy and advance the role of women within it from their single flagship location in Chicago.

First Women’s Bank is an innovative commercial bank on a mission to grow the economy and advance the role of women within it. The Bank is the only women-founded, women-owned and women-led commercial bank in the country with a strategic focus on serving the women’s economy. Clients are entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders – moms, daughters and caregivers. While The Bank has a strategic focus on the women’s economy, they deliver traditional banking services to all banking clients, serving a national lending and deposit market from a single flagship location in Chicago.

About Marianne Markowitz

Marianne is President and Chief Executive Officer of First Women’s Bank (in organization). Marianne will provide strategic leadership for the Bank by working with the board of directors and the management team to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans and policies. She will be responsible for the overall direction and administration of programs, products, and services provided by the Bank, including the Bank’s financial performance, credit quality, business development, operations, regulatory compliance, and risk management. Marianne served as Acting Administrator for the Small Business Administration nationally and as Regional Administrator for SBA’s Midwest Region V. While at the SBA, Marianne served as an interim member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet and was appointed by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve on the City of Chicago’s Small Business Advisory Council. Most recently, Marianne was a Managing Director at CIBC Bank USA (formerly The PrivateBank and Trust Company), where she implemented a national SBA and vertical industry strategy for the CIBC Small Business Banking business line. Before her time at the SBA, Marianne served as trustee on the Obama for America board of directors, Chief Financial Officer for the Obama for America campaign and financial operations consultant for the launch of the Obama Exploratory Committee. As Chief Financial Officer, she was responsible for overseeing, budgeting and deploying $1 billion. Marianne has over 17 years of experience in providing finance and risk management expertise to leading global institutions in the U.S., U.K., and Switzerland. Past accomplishments include leading the financing and implementation of the global treasury and risk management strategy, systems, and staffing for the start-up of Syngenta, a $13 billion organization. Marianne received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and an MBA from DePaul University. She is a One Million Degrees Differencemaker Mentor and a member of the Chicago Economic Club.

About Melissa Widen

Melissa is the Co-Founder and Chief Administrative Officer of First Women’s Bank (in organization). She will have primary responsibility for legal affairs, strategy, business development, and human resources, including recruiting, compensation, benefits, training, employee relations, and employment policies. Melissa is an attorney, entrepreneur and executive with over 25 years of business and legal experience. She was a founder and Managing Partner of Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum LLP, a trial and litigation boutique law firm based in Chicago. Functioning as the CEO for seven years, Melissa led the firm from a six-partner start-up to a top tier, nationally recognized law firm with 25 professionals and a roster of Fortune 500 clients. She served as senior litigation counsel for Arthur Andersen LLP, where she counseled senior firm management on legal, regulatory, and risk issues and advised on practice matters involving assurance, consulting, and tax services. Melissa was also a litigation associate at Jenner & Block. Melissa is a long-time board member and former board Chair of Personal PAC, a leading Illinois PAC focused on supporting women. She is a volunteer attorney with the ACLU’s Judicial Bypass Coordination Project, a Trustee of the Jewish Women’s Foundation, and Vice Chair for Domestic Affairs at the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Chicago. Ms. Widen is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Maryland School of Law.


Marianne Markowitz

Marianne Markowitz

President & Chief Executive Officer of First Women's Bank
Melissa Widen

Melissa Widen

Co-Founder & Chief Administrative Officer of First Women's Bank

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