News from the Top

Celebrating the Leadership of Women


March is Women’s History Month. I often think of the women that came before me, whose shoulders I stand on. Those strong, independent, righteous free thinkers with fierce loyalty and drive. You know them too and have them in your network of friends and family. The world is a better place because of them, despite the ongoing struggle to be recognized, heard and respected.

As an IDA member, I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from so many female urban place managers who have been instrumental to the growth of our industry. So, I asked our fearless leader, David Downey, for a list of IDA Chairs since our inception in 1954. I was curious to see how we fared in the gender ratio of leaders. Turns out our first female chair was Ms. Ann Lang, the President and CEO of Downtown Detroit Partnership. She was chair for one year 1988-89 (one year terms were the norm then and didn’t switch to 2 year terms until 2014). So my friends, it took 34 years for a woman to take the helm.

Since then we’ve made progress — following Ann’s term, we’ve had 18 men and 10 women serve as Chair.

It illustrates to me how much work we all have to do to create a more equitable environment, even in our own house. As business leaders in our communities, we must continue to strive to build welcoming environments within our downtowns and districts every day. Gender, race and socio-economic diversity creates rich and robust city centers filled with art, light, hope and grace – leadership matters.

So in recognition of your enduring leadership and legacies – thank you. We proudly stand on your shoulders.

1988-89 | Ann Lang – Downtown Detroit Partnership
1995-96 | Margaret C. Mullen – Seawater Foundation
1996-97 | Christine Burdick – Tampa Downtown Partnership
1999-00 | Laurie B. Schwartz – LS Consulting, Inc.
2001-02 | Kate Joncas – Downtown Seattle Association
2002-03 | Cathy Coleman Downtown Norfolk Council
2007-08 | Jane Jenkins – Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.
2009-10 | Barbara Askins – 125th Street BID
2013-14 | Tamara Zahn – Zahn Associates
2018-20 | Tami Door – Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc.