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Members Speak Out About Racism in Boston and What Change Looks Like

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Priscilla Douglas says, “It is time to end the illusion that people can lift themselves up by their bootstraps or move easily up an economic ladder just by working hard” and talks about closing the wage gap for the working poor in the Boston Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2020/06/08/op-ed-close-the-wage-gap.html


Also in the Boston Business Journal, and the Boston Globe, Colette Phillips talked about her experiences with racism in Boston and how to create an inclusive economy in Massachusetts, saying, “We cannot continue down this road without change.” Read more here: https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2020/06/08/colette-phillips-on-racism-in-boston.html

Carol Fulp: Committed to creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce

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Carol Fulp is the Founder and CEO of FulpDiversity LLC, where she engages with CEOs to advance diversity and inclusion within their organizations. She previously served as President & CEO of The Partnership Inc., the nationally recognized professional services firm that assists corporations in attracting, developing, and retaining executives and professionals of color. She is also the author of Success Through Diversity: Why The Most Inclusive Companies Will Win.

Given Fulp’s leadership in business and public service, President Obama appointed Fulp as a Representative of the United States of America to the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. She also serves on the Eastern Bank Board of Trustees, American Student Assistance Corporation Board of Directors, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Board of Trustees, and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Board of Directors.


Paying It Forward


Carol has been engaged in diversity and inclusion for her entire life. When she was a child she marched on Washington with her parents. As a result of the Civil Rights movement, she saw doors open in education, industries, and neighborhoods that were previously closed to blacks. Yet she is so cognizant of the systematic racial discrimination that still exists today as evidenced by police brutality, the disproportionate rate of COVID-19, unemployment, the staggering wealth gap, and more. As such it is important for her to continue to work towards equity and to partner with others of color and women who seek a just and equitable society.


You Cannot Be A Leader In Business Unless You Are A Leader In the Community


Carol’s family comes from the Virgin Islands. She truly valued the mentorship of her Aunt Gertrude, who was an incredible businesswoman and community leader. Her aunt taught Carol that you cannot be a leader in business unless you are a leader in the community. Carol took these words to heart in her career and focused on corporate philanthropy, corporate responsibility, marketing, and human resources. And she always ensured business executives in the corporations where she worked, became fully engaged in the community.


The World Is Primarily Black, Brown, and Yellow


Her appointment by President Obama as the US Representative to the 65th General Assembly was a life-changing experience. This was a post held by Eleanor Roosevelt as well as  Coretta Scott King. She found working with the ambassadors around the globe on peace and equity transformational.


When Carol and her husband walked through the doors of the USUN to be sworn into her post, she viewed a significant photo display on the glistening walls. She saw the large photograph of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. She stopped, she stared and she cried.


For her, these portraits of the United States government’s highest officials reflected the rich diversity of America in ethnicity, gender, and age. She sees that rich diversity reflected in those marching today calling to end racism and calling for America to live up to its full potential.


And at the United Nations General Assembly, as Carol stood at the iconic podium delivering a speech, she looked out at the sea of ambassadors from around the globe. The visceral view of the faces of 173 ambassadors was profound. They reflected that the majority of the world was primarily black and brown and yellow.  Reinforcing this fact, was that 25% of the UN Member States represented Africa.


Can You Afford to Win the Race, If You Are Only Running On One Leg?


And it was during a lunch with the Ambassador from Nigeria that Carol took away a key statement on diversity. As they discussed the subject, the Ambassador stated, “You have to think of it this way: “Can you afford to win the race, if you are only running on one leg?” In his view, if you are only hiring one type of person, you are handicapping yourself. You are missing out on at least half the talent available to you. And you won’t be able to win the race. Others who are hiring the best talent of all kinds are bound to win.


Moved by the experiences of the United Nations, when Carol returned to Boston, she wanted to work to help Boston be more reflective of the United Nations, this is what led her to The Partnership, Inc. For nearly 35 years, the organization has developed more than 5000 individuals of color. It has helped multi-cultural advance in their organizations as helped position them to lead Boston’s community. At The Partnership, Carol increased programming, funding and it’s geographic reach.


As she concluded seven years with The Partnership, she began writing her book, Success Through Diversity: Why the Most Inclusive Companies Will Win. The book focuses on the advantages that diversity brings organizations and has been praised by Publishers Weekly and Booklist.


She now consults with CEOs across the country and provides diversity forums based on the book. In these times of racial unrest, she feels it is important that businesses listen to those who have been marginalized throughout their lives. It is an important time to understand the unconscious biases that exist in everyone. Now more than ever, it is important to operate equitably and objectively to create organizational cultures to attract and retain the best talent of all kinds. This is the only way we can succeed in this new era we are embarking on.

We stand against racism. We stand with those protesting its ravages.

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Black Lives Matter. The Massachusetts Women’s Forum stands against racism and with those protesting its ravages past, present, and future.  Not just active hate but also passive contempt.  As women leaders, mothers, daughters, and agents of change, we are united by a shared passion for individually and collectively shaping the world according to American values – equality and justice for all.  We are in deep mourning for George Floyd, senselessly killed at the hands of police, those pledged to protect him, protect all of us no matter the color of our skin. We are in deep mourning for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper, for every victim of racism over the last four centuries.


We stand for those lost, those who survived, and those who fear every day because of racism.  We call for police reform.  We demand that our police and institutions, our leaders and citizens, our society’s laws and norms, renounce racism and stop the killing of our black and brown family.


Today is not about one moment in time.  Our nation must face the history of dehumanization and forced submission and the lived experience of black families.  Each of us must look within, ask why, and find our personal role forward. It is we who change our society, we who sound the alarm, we who build our institutions, we who make our law, and we who keep watch.


The Massachusetts Women’s Forum acknowledges that in our everyday actions we must use our power and platform to listen, question, educate, unite, and act.  We commit to advocate for equity, justice, and change.  We pledge to bind together and work to lead our beloved United States of America to live up to its hallowed principles, universal values, and just laws.


We stand with those who shout and whisper, scream and cry, for justice: in daily life, in protest, in chambers of government, in business rooms, in classrooms, and in the voting booth.

MWF Higher Education and COVID-19 Blog Post

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By Dr. Wendy Purcell PhD FRSA




The Massachusetts Women’s Forum hosted a virtual roundtable event on May 12th 2020 to explore the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on the Higher Education Sector’, with the session opened up to a global audience through the International Women’s Forum.  Joined by distinguished university and college Presidents1 from seven very different institutions across the Commonwealth, Dr. Wendy Purcell designed and moderated the discussion.  Representing  a diversity of missions and contexts, from community colleges to liberal arts universities, those focused on adult learners, others offering an immersive on-campus experience, women’s colleges, urban and rural locations, public and private sector, it was clear there wasn’t a one-size fits all approach to tackling the challenges now and ahead for higher education.


Kicking off the discussion, Wendy Purcell noted that “The COVID-19 challenge is unprecedented in our lifetime, representing a humanitarian and economic crisis that is re-shaping our world in real-time.”  The discussion went on to explore how the pandemic is impacting on sustainability of the higher education sector, revealing its fragilities and highlighting issues of equity in our system.  Helen Drinan noted that “We entered this threatening period on a lot of weak notes.”  As these seismic shifts re-shape higher education, the panel shared their views on what it will take to re-imagine a ‘new normal’ for the sector.  Commenting on the incredible agility shown in moving online in a matter of weeks, in a sector not known for being fleet-of-foot, Helen said this tells us “If we want to change, we can change.”  As the longer-term implications play out, it was clear these institutional leaders were thinking deeply about the profound disruption in, and to, the sector.  As we move now into the recovery ahead, Wendy asked “When and how we will open?” and went on to explore “Will we open at all?”


Key themes from the discussion are explored here, together with responses to audience comments and questions.


Paula Johnson captured the mood of the discussion, saying “This is a moment of crisis and also of tremendous opportunity”, highlighting how the COVID-19 crisis had laid bare tremendous inequities in society as well as the opportunity to build back better.  Toni Hays developed the theme of equity and called on higher education to be made “more affordable, more accessible, more efficient and more collaborative.”  Deborah Jackson reminded us of the critical role of higher education in opening doors to opportunity, reminding us that in sending students home some of them are “not a child going home to parents, rather they are the parents”.  Going on describe the particular concerns of adult learners at Community Colleges in low-wage, low-benefit frontline and service jobs at risk from the pandemic lock-down, Deborah outlined the targeted support offered from Wi-Fi hotspots to providing access to computer labs.  Highlighting the importance of campus as home and campus as community, Paula emphasized the importance of higher education and diversity as essential to our democracy.  Taking the discussion on, Yves Solomon-Fernandez underlined the special needs of those in rural communities where lack of access to transport and Wi-Fi were major issues.  Yves forecast that “The world to which we will return will be dramatically different.” And she called on us all to “Chart a brighter and better path forward.”


Helen Drinan reminded us all that “Hope is not a strategy” and pointed to the work ahead, representing some of the most difficult leadership decisions any President in the sector will face in a lifetime.  Drawing attention to the tensions between pricing and online/on-campus delivery of teaching, Helen was emphatic that “Tuition must fall”.  Alison Davis-Blake demanded that we “Improve productivity in higher education”, noting the need to both invest and disinvest and learn from other sectors about process improvement.  Alison went on to describe “creative destruction”, reminding us to “find the intersection of mission and market”.  Deborah Jackson agreed, stating it was “Hard to justify the cost of higher education today” calling on the sector to review the way we teach and learn – both the how and the what, noting that online learning is a strategic priority and is not the correspondence course of old.  Valerie Roberson drew attention to the important role of higher education in recovery of the economy, noting that when unemployment is high more people enter education and called on us to “support the new economy after the crisis.”


So, while it’s said that ‘Forecasting is hard – especially the future!’, one thing is sure, the only certainty for higher education is more uncertainty.  But, if the far-sightedness and determination of the assembled Presidents is any guide to the high caliber of leadership in the sector, we can feel confident we are in good hands.  Closing the session, Dr. Purcell offered a quote to guide us on our way:

“Start by doing what’s necessary. 

Then do what’s possible. 

And, suddenly you’re doing the impossible.”    

Francis of Assisi


COVID-19 is challenging everything we do in universities and college, from teaching and learning, research and innovation, the students’ experience, faculty and staffing levels, investments in technology and student support, infrastructure projects, fund-raising, internationalization efforts and so much more.  The discussion on Higher Education and the COVID-19 Crisis can be viewed here.


1College and University Presidents interviewed by Wendy Purcell were: Helen Drinan, Simmons University; Paula Johnson, Wellesley College; Toni Hays, Regis College; Deborah Jackson, Cambridge College; Yves Solomon-Fernandez, Greenfield Community College; Valerie Roberson, Roxbury Community College; Alison Davis-Blake, Bentley University.

Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership Announces New Helen G. Drinan Visionary Leadership Award

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The Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership today announced the new Helen G. Drinan Visionary Leadership Award.

Named in honor of member and Simmons University President, Helen G. Drinan, the award will recognize distinguished women leaders who demonstrate exceptional commitment, compassion and vision. Read more here.

Cambridge College Acquires the New England College of Business and Finance

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Cambridge College will acquire the New England College of Business and Finance in a recent merger. Board member Deborah Jackson, President of Cambridge College, is quoted as saying, “NECB’s combination of affordability, innovation, and business integration are the very attributes we value at Cambridge College for our student community of working adults.” Click here to read more.



Tara Levine Joins Inari as Chief Growth Officer

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Inari today announced that member Tara Levine has joined its leadership team in the newly created role of chief growth officer. Read more about how Tara will drive efforts to deliver strategic commercial expansion and further develop the brand of the agriculture technology business in the press release.

Did you miss a Virtual Roundtable?

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We’ve posted videos of all of the Virtual Roundtables. Please note these are only available to our membership.

Watch the videos here.  

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Investing in Children is Investing in the Future

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Sandra Fenwick is the Chief Executive Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital, where she leads a team of 20,000 people dedicated to improving and advancing child health through their life-changing work in clinical care, biomedical research, medical education and community engagement. Boston Children’s is ranked the number one pediatric hospital in the nation by US News and World Report, is home to the world’s largest pediatric research enterprise and is the leading recipient of pediatric research funding from the National Institutes of Health. We spoke with Sandi about her career path and advice she had to offer.


Find mentors that take you to new places

Sandi always loved science from middle school on, which led her to study biology and chemistry in college. But her life was changed at Harvard School of Public Health, where she was on the premed track, when she was able to do a field research project in Saudi Arabia. There she did lab work and worked with patients, doing clinical trial research, which proved to be great experience for her later career and confirmed her passion for the field.

She found her professors’ commitment to their work inspirational and many supervisors took her under their wing. People that pushed Sandi to take more risks, tackle new tasks, and go in different directions she hadn’t considered before were especially helpful in helping her find her path.


Importance of Balance

Sandi offered two pieces of advice. First, find your passion and then give it your all. Do the job with integrity, take measured risk, and make sure to explore and try new things. It is especially effective if you can advance yourself as well as your institution, and lead something important that will better society.

But beyond loving what you do, it is also important to find balance in life, with a life outside of work. Sandi is thankful to have found her husband of 45 years, two amazing children and now grandchildren and community of church and friends and advises others to develop a meaningful life outside of work.


Investing in Children is Investing in the Future

According to Sandi, she has the best job in the world at the Boston Children’s Hospital, an extraordinary institution improving the lives of children. She is in awe of the dedication, passion, and resilience of the people she works with every day and the opportunity to support direct patient care and advance the next generation of treatment. Sandi believes that healthy children make a healthy society, and the future of healthcare lies in investing in children.

Under Sandra Fenwick’s leadership, the Boston Children’s Hospital became a “place where the most difficult challenges are faced head on, where the impossible becomes possible, and where families in search of answers find them.” Click here to find ways to be involved with the hospital’s work.


MWF colleagues provide personal & professional support

Sandi credits Alison Taunton-Rigby with sponsoring her for MWF membership where she has joined a group of fellow women leaders who are helping shape the business, cultural, academic and civic leadership of Boston and beyond and who have been invaluable mentors, advisors and wonderful friends. C-suite roles can be isolating and lonely-MWF colleagues have provided personal and professional perspectives, support and sustenance.

New Member Spotlight: Elaine Zecher

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Elaine became Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Boston in 2016 and is the first female rabbi in the history of Temple Israel. She has touched the lives of Temple Israel’s congregants – from the very youngest to their most senior members in many significant and meaningful ways and has been instrumental in adding to the spiritual richness of the congregation.