One-on-one Q&A with Tatiana Bailey

Oct. 20, 2014

Nick Beadleston

This year, Tatiana Bailey became the first full-time director of the Southern Colorado Economic Forum. Though a newcomer to the state, Bailey is no stranger to economic development; she discussed her background, new position and outlook on economic education.

Scribe: Tell me a little about your background.

Bailey: Well, I went to the University of Michigan. I got my masters in economics and my Ph.D. in public health, so people call me a health economist.

So I guess I have two passions, it’s the economics and the health care.

A lot of what I have been doing in the past 20 years is grant and contract work, related to either economic development initiatives, most notably in the city of Detroit, and then healthcare related initiatives, particularly for at-risk populations, so lower income people.

S: So does that require a lot of being out in the fi eld, rather than being behind a desk?

B: It’s both. It’s probably more behind the desk than out in the field. Mostly because the work I have been doing was evaluation related, so looking at incentives and fi guring out are they working, are they not working.

But part of the reason I decided to come out here is because I had an ah-ha moment – well, moments – in the last couple of years as my kids started to get a little bit older.

Not only did I want to work a little bit more, but I wanted to do something that was a little more hands on. A little more presenting, and little bit more working with … hands on economic development.

Like, ‘OK what are some of the tangible things we can do that can help with economic development?’ Creating jobs, educating the work force of tomorrow, all these different pieces, right, that need to be in place.

So I figured if I had an opportunity to go somewhere, live somewhere cool and do that I would probably do that for the next 20, 30 years of my work life than just do evaluation based [work].

S: You’re the first woman heading up the forum, what do you think that speaks to?

B: I will say that unfortunately the perception is still out there, and I think it’s a bit undeserved, Colorado Springs being so conservative and so old-boy network. And it almost kept me away, you know, because I’m female, I’m Latina. I’m not a super rightwing conservative.

But once I got here, and Venkat [Reddy, dean of UCCS College of Business] and other people told me this too, sure there’s that segment of the population, but it’s not crazy, the way people make it out to be.

So I think that everything is shifting all over the country, but I also think that the perception here is a bit undeserved. I think that it’s shifting [from] maybe the way it was 15, 20 maybe 25 years ago.

The other thing that I’ll say is that not only have I found it to be an incredibly welcoming community, but so many of the high powered people that I’m meeting here are women.

Look who runs the CSHP, the Colorado Springs Health Plan, that’s Debbie Chandler. Look who runs St. Francis Penrose, that’s Margret Sabin. Becky Medved has a very successful healthcare [company].

I mean a lot of these are healthcare related, because that’s what I’ve been gravitating toward, but it’s also one of the sectors that’s the biggest here.

Even aerospace and defense, I mentioned her [at the forum], Cathy Boe, she started her company Boecore here. She’s another person who has over 200 employees in six states.

So you look at it and you say it’s certainly not impossible for a woman to do well here. You’re going to have kids, and you’re going to work, you better be efficient.

We’ve had to work a little bit harder, because there’s still some traditional perceptions out there, both in the work place and at home.

Women who have decided they still want to work have to do it and do it well.

S: What would you say to female students considering getting into economics, generally a male dominated profession?

B: Well, and I say this to my male and female children, there’s no substitute for hard work and perseverance. There’s nothing that can ever replace that. So no matter what gender you are, I think you have to have an incredible work ethic.

For women in particular, never think there are any boundaries. Because as soon as you put those boundaries in place, they’re there.

And even if they’re real boundaries, they’re not insurmountable, they can be surpassed. Even though I’m a female and a Latina, and the Latina culture is very chauvinistic, my dad was probably the person who pushed me the most.

But he pushed me in a good way. And the way that he did it was to say to me ‘you can do anything that you want to do, anything at all that you want to do.’

It’s a very progressive stance. I think part of the reason I never thought there were any barriers is because he told me there were never any barriers.

So I think that’s probably the key message I would give young women today.