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Changing the Face of the Economic Development Profession

Changing the Face of the Economic Development Profession

This week our #WednesdayswithMDBinsight post features Jordan Tidey, Senior Consultant, who has been watching with interest the diversification of the economic development profession in Canada.

Across the country, municipal roles including economic development have seen a noticeable shift over the last several years. I’ve been watching this with interest, seeing a change from positions predominantly held by (often older) white males to increasingly more (often younger) women and Persons of Colour. These might be anecdotal observations, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that our profession is better off as a result of this shift. 

In a December 2018 blog post MDB Insight noted that 21.7% of Canadian women are absent from the workforce, due to family or personal responsibilities. For men, only 9.3% are absent from the workplace for the same reasons. If this holds true in the economic development profession, we’re missing out on the contributions that many women could be making in the field. That same 2018 post pointed to several initiatives that might encourage more women to join the workforce, including mentorship opportunities, flexible working hours/locations for new parents (benefitting women and men), and creating on-the-job affordable daycare options. These are as applicable in our profession as anywhere else.

It’s interesting and heartening to note the attention this is receiving in professional development circles. A quick scan of recent and upcoming conferences points to a consistent belief that diversity, equity and inclusion are topics of growing importance within economic development circles. For example:

  • The upcoming International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Leadership Summit includes sessions like “Approaches to Equitable Economic Development in Urban Markets” and “Minority and Women Enterprises: Building Capital, Networks, and Skills”
  • A pre-conference seminar at the 2020 EDCO conference in early February was devoted to diversity in economic development (“The economic development profession is becoming more diverse. This is a positive trend that will result in more creative and inclusive initiatives in our communities”)
  • For 2019 the Maryland Economic Development Association devoted its entire conference agenda to diversity and inclusion
  • For the 11th year in a row, Area Development Magazine will again host its Women in Economic Development Forum (October 2020, Chicago)

The incentive to continue our advocacy efforts for a more diverse, equitable profession is clear – a diverse professional talent pool strengthens our industry and benefits the communities we serve. There are certainly personal motivations too. I am fortunate to work with a diverse team of colleagues whose perspectives and experiences help to expand and enhance my world view and my understanding of our work and its impact.

Here’s hoping 2020 sees more efforts to successfully attract and retain a diversified workforce in our field, and continued opportunities to learn from and support them in our profession.

To learn more about Jordan and the other members of our team, go to

JordanOur Wednesdays with MDB Insight posts feature the thinkers and doers on our team sharing ideas and talking about what’s important to us as professionals. We have very diverse backgrounds and a range of interests to share with you. We hope you’re enjoying these posts and that you will join the conversation with us and let us know what’s on your mind mid-week.


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