Column: We need gender and racial diversity on state boards and commissions

Shirley Leung’s column (“Where are the women on the state’s list of highest-paid workers,” Jan 9) shed light on the small number of women in the top ranks of state employees.

We believe that increasing both gender and racial diversity in our state’s workforce and leadership, in both the public and private sectors, is the right thing to do as well as an economic imperative for our Commonwealth.

One often-overlooked sector of our state leadership are the several hundred appointed boards and commissions, ranging from the Health Policy Commission to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to the Board of the Massachusetts Port Authority. The members of these bodies – most often appointed by the Governor but also by other elected officials and organizations – have a wide range of responsibilities and powers.

Government works best when citizens are involved in the policy making process but we need to ensure the citizens appointed to these public boards and commissions are a reflection of those who make up the Commonwealth.  We know that women make up a little over half of the population in Massachusetts, however, according to an analysis by the Eos Foundation of the 50 most prominent boards and commissions, only 32% are currently at gender parity and many have very few women and people of color.

That’s why we filed legislation that would require gender parity and racial diversity on our state’s public boards and commissions. A few other states have taken similar measures to ensure diversity in their top leadership, and we believe it is time for Massachusetts to do likewise.


State Senator Jason Lewis
State Representative Patricia Haddad