Why joining a public board should be one of your New Year’s resolutions


As the first month of the year comes to an end, you might be assessing your resolutions for the year 2020. New Year’s resolutions often focus on our own personal growth, but what about setting a resolution to make a lasting impact in your community? Joining a public board or commission is one way to use your knowledge and experience towards greater social justice, while gaining new skills and connections that can help advance your career. Public boards and commissions are government bodies that offer citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions and influence change. They have a significant impact on our state’s education, health and human services, labor and workforce development, public safety, and more. 

At a local level, we have seen more diverse representation among our representatives in public office. But there is still more work to be done to ensure diversity in leadership and governance that broadly reflects the demographics of our Commonwealth. Local public boards and commissions offer a great opportunity for diverse voices to influence decisions that will impact our community’s future. 

What are Boards and Commissions? 

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. Boards set standards and agendas for governing bodies, and commissions act as advisers to local and state legislative bodies. Boards of directors assist management in explicating business strategies and defining objectives. Members of these organizations are typically unpaid but may be reimbursed for travel expenses.

Why joining a Massachusetts public board or commission matters

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.

Although these statistics feel disheartening, we encourage women, people of color, and women of color to apply. Equitable representation will bring a wider breadth of experiences that can improve decision-making within public boards and commissions. In addition, 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.

We know that increased diversity in offices, schools, and boards ultimately leads to better performance. Without various viewpoints and voices to inform these critical decisions, we risk putting in place less effective policies and alienating our diverse communities. And while YW Boston’s Parity on Board Coalition is advocating for legislation that would ensure gender parity and racial and ethnic diversity on public boards and commissions, we need diverse candidates to answer the call to serve on public boards and commissions.

What are the qualifications?

A person will be appointed if they exhibit a skill, interest, or experience in a certain field. Certain boards and commissions are required by law to have members with a specific skill set, political affiliation, or professional background but most of these organizations do reserve seats for citizens looking to get involved. The best way to learn about membership qualifications for a particular board or commission is to review the Board and Commissions Responsibilities page on the State of Massachusetts website.

What types of public boards and commissions can you join in Massachusetts?

Within the state’s Labor and Workforce Development policy area, for example, you may be able to join any of the following public boards and commissions, among others: 

  • Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation 
  • Board of Review of the Department of Unemployment Assistance 
  • Industrial Accident Board 
  • Workforce Training Fund Advisory Board 
How to join a public board or commission in Massachusetts

Make it your 2020 resolution to join a public board or commission! You can start by visiting the Commonwealth’s website to learn more about the responsibilities of each role and browse opportunities that are currently available. There are currently over 700 public boards and commissions to choose from in Massachusetts. You may submit your resume and will be contacted if there’s an open opportunity that matches your areas of expertise. Click here to search through existing Massachusetts public boards and commissions based on your policy area on interest. Policy areas include Public Safety, Education, Housing and Economic Development.


To learn more about the importance of board service or to get involved with YW Boston’s Parity on Board coalition in support of more diverse leadership in Massachusetts, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive news and legislative updates.

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About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.