Event Recap: Empowering Voices, Inspiring Change to Increase Representation on Public Boards and Commissions

Brianna Savage
Image (5)

YW Boston and the Parity on Board Coalition were pleased to join the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, and the Asian American Pacific Islander Commission on Monday, March 25th for a collaborative panel discussion to celebrate the diverse voices of our representation in Massachusetts. This event was hosted at the Massachusetts State House and organized by multiple organizations working to increase diversity and representation on public boards and commissions. 

Representative Tram Nguyen, lead sponsor on An Act to increase diversity on public boards and commissions (H.3095) started the event with remarks highlighting the need for diversity on public boards and commissions. Rep Nguyen shared the great work her and her office are doing to champion the “Parity on Board bill” or An act to promote racial and gender diversity on public boards and commission (H3095/S2029).  

From the Office of the Governor, Chief Secretary April English (LeadBoston Class of 2017) shared helpful details about the process of applying for public boards and commissions. Since taking office, Governor Healey and the Department of Public Boards and Commissions have filled over 600 seats on the over 700 public boards and commissions. Within these new appointments, 53% were women, of those, 47% were women of color and three folks disclosed they identified as non-binary or transgendered which contributed to an overall 39% diversity. Secretary English shared her email address and the best website to find open seats and application information. 

To speak to their experiences serving on public boards and commissions, we were joined by Commissioner for the APPI Commission, Tuey Tran from the Worcester area. Of her experience, Commissioner Tran noted “You can’t truly advocate for a community unless you understand it.” 

From the Cambridge area, serving as Commissioner on the MA Commission on the Status of Women, Divya Chaturvedi spoke to the importance of representation as a woman and an immigrant in her community: “Sometimes there is cultural or societal push back for folks of color or immigrants to speak up and we are supposed to keep your head down and be grateful for the dream, but serving on the commission made me realize my voice is needed and valued.” 

As the lead for the Parity on Board Coalition and as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Black Empowerment, YW Boston President & CEO Beth Chandler outlined her experience learning from listening tours and the voices around the state while serving: “You all have a lived experience that is important and valuable. Often for folks who are [marginalized], we are often told our opinions don’t matter, that we don’t have value…serving on a commission is an opportunity for you to be heard because there are others in the Commonwealth who share those experiences.”  

Beth also highlighted the Parity on Board bill or An act to promote racial and gender diversity on public boards and commission (H3095/S2029) which would ask public boards and commissions to identify and report data on their members, including identifying demographics to the Office of the Governor. This approach is based on the Nasdaq diversity rule approved by the Securities & Exchange Commission. This bill builds a healthier and more transparent system to both celebrate our wins and find areas for improvement. To support this bill, reach out to your state representative and senator today and ask them to help pass! 

This event had a great attendance and energy around engaging in local work and uplifting voices that are historically underrepresented or underserved. YW Boston looks forward to hosting another information session around gender and racial parity on public boards and commissions this June.  

In the meantime, please share these opportunities with colleagues, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Diverse representation in our statewide leadership makes an important difference to the lived experiences of all.  

For more information on YW Boston’s advocacy work and how to advocate, reach out to Associate Director of Advocacy Brianna Savage and visit www.parityonboard.org to learn more about the Parity on Board Coalition. 

More resources: 

About YW Boston’s Advocacy Work: 

YW Boston works to eliminate racism and empower women through DEI services and advocacy. Our advocacy work is included under our 501(c)3, which means we do not endorse candidates, and we are non-partisan in the policies that we take on. Our advocacy work is planned and executed by a dedicated group of volunteers who apply and serve on our YW Boston Advocacy Committee