Achieving diversity on Massachusetts public boards and commissions

Women and people of color account for 51.5% and 28% respectively of the state’s population, but remain underrepresented in positions of leadership among our public, taxpayer-funded boards and commissions. Massachusetts leads the nation in human talent and our pipelines are replete with women and people of color ready to serve. Yet the data shows we have a long way to go in order to reach gender parity and increased representation of people of color on our state boards and commissions. This is unacceptable and it’s time we do better for our community. 

The Parity on Board Coalition, led by YW Boston, is a statewide coalition advocating for An Act to Ensure Gender Parity and Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Public Boards and Commissions (H.4153). This bill will ensure that the composition of each appointed public board and commission broadly reflect the general public of the Commonwealth. All appointive boards and commissions of the state shall be gender, racially and ethnically balanced. According to the bill, composition should not exceed 50% of one gender. Additionally, racial and ethnic composition of each board and commission must, at minimum, reflect the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the general population.

 

The bill was filed in January 2019 by Representative Patricia A. Haddad and Senator Jason Lewis. In October 2019, a new draft of the bill was reported favorably by the the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and was referred to the committee on House Ways and Means.

Parity On Board Coalition Woman in boardroom meeting

THE PROBLEM

Public boards and commissions have outsized impact on the direction of our policies and initiatives on education, health and human services, housing and economic development, labor and workforce development, public safety, and more.

Without various viewpoints and voices to inform these critical decisions, we risk putting in place less effective policies and alienating our diverse communities.

Public boards and commissions have outsized impact on the direction of our policies and initiatives on education, health and human services, housing and economic development, labor and workforce development, public safety, and more.

Without various viewpoints and voices to inform these critical decisions, we risk putting in place less effective policies and alienating our diverse communities.

THE FACTS

Icon representing group of people

In Massachusetts, women and people of color account for 52% and 28% respectively, of the state’s population yet are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions.

Icon representing education, woman with diploma

Women are underrepresented among our key education boards which is an urgent concern given the fact that women are 75% of teachers in K-12, 94% of child care workers and 57% of all higher education students.

Icon representing boardroom, people around table

On the state’s 50 most prominent public boards and commissions, women are just 22% of CEOs, 34% of board chairs and 39% of board members.

Parity on Board fact sheet

WHY ARE WE FALLING BEHIND?

Reexamining the criteria

There isn’t just one “most qualified” person for any position. The criteria itself can be the main structural obstacle to inclusion.

Network Limitations

Research shows that individuals tend to hire and promote people who are similar to themselves. Leaders have to go beyond their immediate circles if they are committed to diversity in hiring.

Beware the “Rooney Rule”

Ensuring a diverse applicant pool is not enough. There needs to be accountability and deliberate equitable hiring policies and practices.

Unconscious bias

We all have bias about different groups of people. Selection bias is a structural issue that can be resolved with structural solutions.

WHAT WOULD THIS LEGISLATION DO?

An Act to Ensure Gender Parity and Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Public Boards and Commissions (H.4153) would require that the composition of each appointed public board and commission broadly reflect the general public of the Commonwealth. All appointive boards and commissions of the state shall be gender, racially and ethnically balanced. According to the bill, composition should not exceed 50% of one gender. Additionally, racial and ethnic composition of each board and commission must, at minimum, reflect the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the general population.

As our state and community continues to grow economically and culturally, enacting this legislation would bring about major change across our leadership diversity.

WHAT WOULD THIS LEGISLATION DO?

An Act to Ensure Gender Parity and Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Public Boards and Commissions (H.4153) would require that the composition of each appointed public board and commission broadly reflect the general public of the Commonwealth. All appointive boards and commissions of the state shall be gender, racially and ethnically balanced. According to the bill, composition should not exceed 50% of one gender. Additionally, racial and ethnic composition of each board and commission must, at minimum, reflect the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the general population.

As our state and community continues to grow economically and culturally, enacting this legislation would bring about major change across our leadership diversity.

Other states committed to diversity on boards

1

Iowa is the Only State Requiring a Gender Balance on County and State Boards

In 1987, the Iowa State legislature passed a law mandating gender balance on state boards and commissions. In 2009, the Iowa legislature passed a bill that also required gender balance on city and county-level public boards and commissions.

2

California Becomes 1st State To Require Women On Corporate Boards

On 2018, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill 826, which requires publicly held companies based in California to have a minimum of one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019.

3

New Jersey Follows California in Measure to Add Women to Boards

A new bill in the New Jersey legislature would require many public companies based in the state to have at least three women on the board by 2021.

4

Illinois General Assembly passes bill to require annual reporting of board diversity information

On June, 2019, The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill (the “Diversity Disclosure Bill”) requiring most publicly held companies organized or headquartered in Illinois to include detailed demographic diversity information in their annual reports.

5

Pennsylvania House Passes Resolution to Boost Number of Women on Boards

During the 2017 legislative session, Pennsylvania passed HR 273, urging every business in the state to reach a membership of women at 30 percent of all board members by 2020.

6

Colorado was the 4th state to pass Legislative Resolution encouraging more women on boards

Colorado’s General Assembly passed a legislative resolution (HJR 17-1017) calling for equitable and diverse gender representation on the boards of publicly held corporations headquartered in Colorado.

7

Michigan: Representation Requirements on the Horizon

Michigan’s Senate Bill No. 115, still with the Senate Committee on Economic and Small Business Development as of June 2019, closely mirrors California Senate Bill 826. If enacted, domestic and foreign publicly held corporations with principal executive offices in Michigan would have to have at least one female director as of January 1st, 2021.

4

Illinois General Assembly passes bill to require annual reporting of board diversity information

On June, 2019, The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill (the “Diversity Disclosure Bill”) requiring most publicly held companies organized or headquartered in Illinois to include detailed demographic diversity information in their annual reports.

5

Pennsylvania House Passes Resolution to Boost Number of Women on Boards

During the 2017 legislative session, Pennsylvania passed HR 273, urging every business in the state to reach a membership of women at 30 percent of all board members by 2020.

6

Colorado was the 4th state to pass Legislative Resolution encouraging more women on boards

Colorado’s General Assembly passed a legislative resolution (HJR 17-1017) calling for equitable and diverse gender representation on the boards of publicly held corporations headquartered in Colorado.

7

Michigan: Representation Requirements on the Horizon

Michigan’s Senate Bill No. 115, still with the Senate Committee on Economic and Small Business Development as of June 2019, closely mirrors California Senate Bill 826. If enacted, domestic and foreign publicly held corporations with principal executive offices in Michigan would have to have at least one female director as of January 1st, 2021.

8

Washington: Gender Equity on Corporate Boards becomes requirement for publicly traded companies

Washington’s Women on Corporate Boards Act (SB 6037) became effective on June 11, 2020. Companies in the state that boasts headquarters of top technology companies must now ensure 25% of their board members identify as women. If they fail to comply with this rule they must have board diversity discussions at their public shareholders meetings until they meet the gender diversity threshold. 

Group photo, four panelists and moderator of Parity On Board event

NEWS AND PRESS COVERAGE

Women are scarce on many Massachusetts public boards, report finds

MassLive

Should Beacon Hill Mandate Gender Diversity On Public Boards?

WGBH

Legislation Eyed To Force Gender Parity On State Boards

WBUR News

Boys in the boardroom, consider yourself warned

The Boston Globe

Coalition News

Additional Resources