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Honoring women in economic development
Eli Dile   on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Like many professions, economic development has traditionally been a male-dominated field. But that is changing, thanks to too many trailblazers to mention on this humble blog. In honor of Women’s History Month, the U.S. Economic Development Administration recently profiled three female leaders of Economic Development Districts:

  • Michelle Haynes, Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning, Colorado,
  • Rachelle Howe, Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission, Iowa, and
  • Sharon Hueftle, South Central Economic Development District, Inc., Nebraska.

“I love working with our businesses and communities; having raised four kids, I equate it to raising teenagers,” writes Sharon Hueftle. “Women are gifted at facilitating and hand-holding, but because we are very passionate about our work – letting go is hard. However, women are remarkable at holding the door open, so when that teenager – I mean, community leader or business owner – returns for assistance, we are eager to continue walking them down the path of their ‘next right step.’”

Of course, the economic development profession can always do more to ensure it is diverse. For ideas, check out Widening the Circle (PDF), an Economic Development Research Partners report on this very topic.

Related: The wage gap remains a near universal challenge; there are very few places where women earn more than men (Stateline). But they do exist. That list includes:

  • Chamblee, Georgia
  • Lake Worth, Florida
  • Plainfield and Trenton, New Jersey
  • Inglewood, California
  • Village of Hempstead, New York
  • Prince George’s County, Maryland

What’s similar about these places? As Stateline notes, “Most are diverse suburbs in large metro areas. All are majority-minority, and many have low-income neighborhoods as well as the economic benefits of proximity to vibrant cities.” The report cautions that a large presence of low-skilled, minority men may skew these data, and pay gaps still exist within many professions in these areas.


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