YW Boston to Run Coalition to Ensure Gender Parity on Public Boards and Commissions


On Tuesday, March 20, 2019, YW Boston announced its support of ensuring gender parity on public boards and commissions in Massachusetts. Beth Chandler, YW Boston President and CEO, spoke at the State House alongside Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, Senator Jason Lewis, and Andrea Silbert of the Eos Foundation. All four spoke of their support of the legislation, An Act to ensure gender parity on public boards and commissions H.2711/S.1878. YW Boston will be leading the coalition in support of this important legislation.

The legislation will ensure that beginning on and after January 1, 2022, the composition of each appointed public board and commission in the Commonwealth shall broadly reflect the general public of the commonwealth. This means public boards and commissions must include persons of different backgrounds, abilities, interests, and opinions including ethnic minorities and women and shall have not less than 50 percent women board members or commissioners.

Currently, in Massachusetts:

  • Gender and racial data on our public boards and commissions is made publicly available by our state
  • 50% of the state’s most prominent boards and commissions count less than 40% women members
  • Women comprise 22% of board/commissioner CEO roles, with women of color holding just 2% of these positions and men of color holding 5% of positions
  • Women comprise 34% of board chairs, with women of color holding 6% of these positions

While women and people of color account for 51.5% and 28%, respectively, of the state’s population, they are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions. Diversity of leadership is good for consumers and businesses, citizens and governments as it leads to better decision making in all organizations. Studies have found that diverse boards and management teams are better governed, and corporations with diverse leadership are more profitable.

This legislation is crucial because it ensures that boards and commissions reflect the racial diversity of the state, not just gender parity. We must ensure that these roles are not just provided to white women, but also that the number of women of color on these boards and commissions accurately reflect Massachusetts’ population. As Beth Chandler stated at the State House, “In addition to promoting gender equity, it is also important to ensure that women of color are included. Efforts to increase gender equity aren’t always intentional about ensuring that the needs of women of color are addressed as well.”

Also included in the legislation is a requirement that by the end of 2021, all publicly held corporations with principal executive offices in Massachusetts to have at least one female director on its boards. By the end of 2023, depending on the size of the board, it must have two or three women. Failing to meet this requirement will necessitate a fine of up to $100,000.

For the purposes of this section, “woman” means an individual who self-identifies her gender as a woman, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth. When practicable, the racial and ethnic composition of each board and commission shall reflect the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the general population.

Please note that this bill specifically works to ensure gender parity on public board and commissions. The bill An Act to ensure more women serve on corporate boards of directors S.1879 is a distinct effort not formally associated with H.2711/S.1878 and the YW Boston-led coalition.

Read more about this announcement on WBUR.

Stay Involved

We are building a coalition of leaders, supporters, volunteers, and partners interested in diversifying leadership and decision-making in Massachusetts. Support An Act to Ensure Gender Parity on Public Boards and Commissions (H.2711 | S.1878) by becoming a Parity On Board coalition partner or signing up for our monthly newsletter.