Therese Wielage is accustomed to working hard to succeed in traditionally male-dominated industries, and along the way, she has built a legacy of service to the community through an ever-growing list of involvement with Greater Des Moines charitable causes. 

In each professional position that she has held, Wielage firmly believes that she is “building staircases” for other women leaders to ascend. And when she talks about the charities whose work she has supported, it’s easy to recognize that she has a genuinely big heart for the people she has helped, particularly kids. 

“Every time I focused on lifting up others, that’s when great things happened for me,” she said. 

Wielage considers herself to be in her third career now, having started out in broadcasting when she was 18 - and having  achieved Emmy-winning success at WHO-TV in Des Moines - and then becoming chief marketing officer and an owner in the technology firm Spindustry Systems. 

She sold her ownership stake in Spindustry in 2008, and has since held the lead marketing role with Merchants Bonding, one of the largest surety companies in the United States. She also represents the surety industry nationally, chairing the communications advisory committee of the Surety and Fidelity Association of America. 

Mentoring up-and-coming leaders is both rewarding and humbling, Wielage has found. “You start to look back [at your career] and you go, ‘Wow, I have done a lot; maybe I do have something to offer,’ ” she said. “Maybe somebody can learn from all those mistakes that I made and avoid making those same mistakes.” 

As retired ambassador Mary Kramer put it in a nomination letter: “Therese brings a gracious and effective leadership style to every situation. She is there to coach and mentor, to talk through and develop solutions to problems, and to maintain a strong focus on what needs to be done.”  

When she joined Merchants Bonding in 2008 as vice president of marketing, she was the first woman to hold an executive position in the company, which ranks among the largest in the bonding industry nationally. Over the past decade, and in part due to her leadership, the company’s annual revenues have more than doubled while more women have taken on greater leadership responsibilities. 

Although she was in front of the camera as a television news anchor on WHO-TV in Des Moines early in her career, Wielage says she was more comfortable working behind the scenes later as executive producer. 

One of Wielage’s biggest assignments when she was with WHO-TV was to do a behind-the-scenes look at the women of NBC, which included interviewing Jane Pauley at NBC’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. 

“[Pauley] touched me on the leg and said, ‘You’re good at this - you can do this.’ ” Wielage recalled. “That’s something I’ve kept with me through my whole career. You tamp down that intimidation of interviewing the president or the governor, whoever it is. And so you’re not intimidated to ask questions and to speak up, and you take that with you into the rest of your career.”

Wielage's Areas of Influence:

She oversees the Merchants Bonding Co. Foundation’s biennial Bill Warner Sr. Memorial Charity Golf Classic, which has raised more than $617,000 for Iowa charities since 2010. She helped launch the EPIC Corporate Challenge program as part of the Nexus Executive Women’s Alliance. 
Wielage has served on the Iowa Small Business Development Centers state advisory board for the past 10 years, and she is a member of the executive board of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, which she will lead as president in 2021. 
She served as Solheim Captain of Events during the 2017 Solheim Cup, leading more than 2,000 volunteers. She has also served on the boards of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Iowa, ChildServe, Winefest, and Children and Families of Iowa.