Forbes recently reported that some of the swiftest and most effective responses to COVID-19 originated from countries under the leadership of women. In a public health crisis such as the one we are currently facing, as in any crisis, it is important for leaders to have a deep understanding of existing disparities and potential risks for women, immigrant communities, and communities of color, among many other groups historically impacted by systemic inequities. In order to change the face of leadership in Massachusetts, we also need more diverse candidates to answer the call to join public boards and commissions.
A Women’s Power Gap Report published last year by The Eos Foundation found that in Massachusetts, women comprise only 39% of board members and 34% of board chairs on the state’s 50 most prominent public boards and commissions. The numbers become even more alarming when we look at women of color, who make up only 6% of board chairs. This is a cause for concern given that women and people of color account for 51.5% and 28%, respectively, of the state’s population.
Public boards and commissions are governmental bodies designed to work with state agencies to give a voice to citizens. These organizations allow citizens to be actively involved in their government and offer opportunities to influence decisions that affect the quality of life of Massachusetts residents. Joining a public board or commission is one way women and people of color can utilize their unique knowledge and experiences towards greater equity, while gaining new skills and connections that can help advance their careers. In fact, board service has proved to be a valuable tool for women and women of color looking to advance their executive careers. The Harvard Business Review released a report detailing how board experience is helping more women get CEO jobs.
YW Boston is leading the Parity on Board coalition and advocating for legislation to ensure gender parity and racial and ethnic diversity on public boards and commissions. But representation won’t improve unless public boards commit to fostering inclusive workplaces that can support these diverse candidates and unless these candidates of diverse backgrounds answer the call to serve.
How to join a public board or commission
Click here to download our toolkit for candidates interested in joining a public board or commission in Massachusetts