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Celebrating Women’s History Month: An Interview with Lauri Michel

Written By: NTCIC

Women’s History Month is the perfect opportunity to celebrate significant women throughout history and today. This March, NTCIC wants to specifically highlight its own women leaders who are leaving a lasting impact on historic preservation and sustainability.

Meet Lauri Michel, Chair of NTCIC’s Board of Directors. Lauri was first elected to NTCIC’s Board in 2008 and became chair in October 2021. In Lauri’s “day job,” she serves as Vice President, Risk Management & Special Projects at Calvert Impact, where she manages credit and enterprise risk, loan administration, and IT services. She previously served as Calvert Foundation’s Vice President of Underwriting, managing due diligence, underwriting, and monitoring support for Calvert Foundation’s loan portfolios.Lauri Michel speaks at NTCIC 20th Anniversary Party in October 2022

Before joining Calvert Foundation, Ms. Michel was a Vice President at KEMA Advisors, a North Carolina consulting firm. She has also served as Vice President, Community Revitalization for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and as President of NT CDFI, Inc., its non-profit community development financial institution.

Lauri’s professional background includes architecture, community development, and finance.  She has over fifteen years of experience in commercial real estate finance and managed New York’s affordable housing development and finance programs as Deputy Commissioner for Development for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development. Lauri holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

Get to know Lauri and her path to success!

Susan Doyle: What is one thing you know now about women and work you wish you had known much earlier in your career? 

Lauri Michel: Having chosen to enter a primarily male-dominated profession and corporate environment, I wish I had known about the positive correlation between gender equity and financial performance. In 2018, Calvert Impact Capital conducted an analysis of its private debt portfolio. The analysis showed a strong relationship between gender diversity in leadership positions and positive financial performance. The companies with the highest percentage of women on boards and in senior management positions outperformed those with the least. Having that knowledge would have been inspirational on a personal level. It would have been a stepping stone in getting to gender equity. And it would have been a helpful data point in building the case for alternative corporate cultures and leadership styles.

Susan: What have been your career barriers and how did you overcome them? 

Lauri: I began my finance career working in the commercial real estate finance division of major money center banks. We primarily provided construction loans to developers across the US. My role also required me to meet with developers and contractors at building sites, assess construction progress, and then sign off on the monthly draw requests. I was one of few women in that area at the time and one of even fewer people of color. I was almost always the only woman in any meeting, and, in that scenario, it was easy to be overlooked at best or, worse, not be taken seriously. This was particularly true in meetings where my voice was often drowned out.

“On job sites, in business meetings, or in corporate gatherings, in a sea of gray and navy suits, I was the lady in red with a seat at the table.”

I learned that when I lowered the tone of my voice, the men stopped talking, looked at me, and waited for me to finish making my point. I also learned to use my uniqueness to my advantage. The standard dress code for women bank officers was dresses or skirts and heels. I chose to mimic my male counterparts by only dressing in suits. But since I was going to stand out anyway, I chose suit colors that I knew the men could not wear, like red, bright blue, or purple. On job sites, in business meetings, or in corporate gatherings, in a sea of gray and navy suits, I was the lady in red with a seat at the table. Of course, I still had to be knowledgeable, well-informed, well-prepared, decisive, and assertive. But those suits became my armor and my superpower.

Susan: How do you achieve work/life balance? 

Lauri: I am fortunate that I no longer have young children at home. That makes achieving a work/life balance easier. I am also fortunate to work for an organization that values work/life balance and bringing our entire selves to the workplace. I try not to take work home with me on nights and weekends. Being available for family and friends is of paramount importance.

Susan: What do you like to do outside of work? 

Lauri: I have a wide range of interests that include walking (for exercise as well as to commune with nature), museum hopping (the DC area is great for this!), cooking, painting, personal training, and Broadway theater.