On Tuesday, March 20th, YW Boston announced its support of ensuring gender parity on public boards and commissions during an event at the Massachusetts State House. YW Boston President and CEO, Beth Chandler, spoke alongside Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, Senator Jason Lewis, and Andrea Silbert of the Eos Foundation. During the event, Beth announced that YW Boston would be building a coalition in support of An Act to ensure gender parity on public boards and commissions (H.2711/S.1878).
On May 16th, YW Boston, in partnership with the Eos Foundation, held the event Parity On Board: Achieving diversity on Massachusetts public boards at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The event was an opportunity to learn about the research conducted by the Eos Foundation on the gender leadership gap in Massachusetts and the advantages of having greater diversity serve our state.
Since then, YW Boston went to work building a coalition of leaders, supporters, volunteers, and partners interested in diversifying leadership and decision-making in Massachusetts. The AAUW of Massachusetts, Amplify Latinx, Mass NOW, The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, The Women’s Bar Association, The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, and The WAGE Project are among the notable organizations who have joined the Parity On Board Coalition.
Our public boards and commissions have a significant impact on our state’s education, health and human services, labor and workforce development, public safety, and more. It’s essential that various viewpoints and voices inform the critical decisions made by these agencies. The Parity on Board Coalition hopes to address power inequities in our Commonwealth. Although Massachusetts leads the nation in human talent, data shows a lack of representation of women and people of color on state boards and commissions. Given that these tax-funded agencies are responsible for key decisions and policymaking across the Commonwealth, the impact of these boards and commissions on the lives of our residents cannot be overstated.
A recent Women’s Power Gap Report conducted by the Eos Foundation found that in Massachusetts, women comprise only 39% of board members, 34% of board chairs, and 22% of CEOs on the state’s 50 most prominent public boards and commissions. Women of color are grossly underrepresented in the leadership of these public boards and commissions, making up only 2% of CEOs and 6% of board chairs. The data demonstrates that Massachusetts has fallen short. As of today, only 32% of these boards have achieved gender parity.
Boards lacking diversity are not only failing to ensure the Commonwealth is represented by a group that reflects the diversity of its residents but are also jeopardizing the board’s bottom line. A 2017 study found that greater board diversity leads to lower volatility and better performance. So far, a laissez-faire approach to equality has not worked. We will not reach racial and gender parity in Massachusetts any time soon unless we demand accountability. Let’s all get on board with parity.
This article originally appeared on the YW Boston blog.