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NO DOUBT MANY of us watched with pride and excitement as the Senate recently confirmed the appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court of the United States. At last, the Supreme Court will be more like America with a black female judge sitting. But closer to home, in leadership positions on prominent public boards and commissions in Massachusetts, the appointment of women of color remains rare.

What is the impact of the lack of representation of black people in a powerful body like the Supreme Court, and what differencereally make Judge Jackson there now?

Let us reflect on what most legal scholars agree is the worst decision the Supreme Court has ever made: Plessy vs. Ferguson, in 1896, which codified the doctrine of separate treatment for separate races as the law of the land. In fact, it is the vestiges of this very decision that we seek to finally dismantle with the proposed new legislation in Beacon Hill.

If Justice Jackson had been a member of the court in 1896, she could have shared the knowledge she had access toonlydue to their membership in black communities, and perhaps that knowledge could have influenced the perceptions, and therefore the beliefs and decisions, of the white judges who voted that day.

Our tax-funded public boards and commissions have a huge impact on education, health care, jobs, development and more.

Currently, women and people of color make up 52% ​​and 28%, respectively, of the Massachusetts population, but are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions. In fact, in 50 of the statesthe most outstanding public boards and commissionswomen make up 34 percent of board chairs, people of color make up 10 percent of board chairs, and women of color make up only 6 percent of board chairs.Since 2019,there has been some increase in the number of white women and men of color in leadership positions on the board, but no gains for women of color.

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Here in Massachusetts, it’s time to use this data to drive the legislative discussions and actions needed to meaningfully address this disparity.

The statewide Parity on Board Coalition, led by YW Boston, works to address the diversity gap between our state’s population and representation on our public boards and commissions. The coalition advocates the approval of “Law to Guarantee Gender Parity and Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Public Boards and Commissions” (S.2077/H.3157), which will ensure that the composition of each public board and commission broadly reflects the general Commonwealth public.

Appointment to a board or commission is often the first step for someone interested in becoming more involved in civic life, public policy, and public service. A date opens the door to relationships and experiences that you could not receive anywhere else. By more accurately representing the public, parity on public boards better ensures that policy decisions made by boards take into account the needs and positions of all stakeholders.

Research is clear on the benefits of greater diversity in leadership roles. The Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Healthfound thatBoards of directors of Fortune 500 companies with a higher representation of women reported “42 percent higher return on sales and 53 percent higher return on equity than the rest.” These increases were cited as a reflection of boards being able to reach diverse customer bases and tapping into deeper talent pools. McKinsey, in turn,found thatCompanies with greater ethnic and cultural diversity increasingly outperform those with little diversity. Massachusetts must pay attention and take advantage of these trends to better serve its people.

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We have an opportunity to ensure the success of our state’s systems by ensuring that our public boards and commissions are representative of our population. Quick action on this legislation will ensure diverse opinions are present, strengthening our systems when we need it. them more. In the future, all appointed state boards and commissions would be balanced by gender, race, and ethnicity.Current board members would not lose their seats.

Both S.2077 and H.3157 they received favorable reports from the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and were referred to the Senate Ways and Means and the House of Representatives. Way & Means, respectively. This is legislation that will make a difference and it should move forward now.

Federal Title IX demonstrates the power of legislation when it comes to addressing inequity issues. While most people associate Title IX with increased sports opportunities for women, its impact has been far greater. The law prohibitsdiscrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Since its passage nearly 50 years ago, Title IX has seen a tenfold increase in the number of female participants in high school athletics, a 14 percent increase in the percentage of college students who are women, and an increase in the number of women receiving doctoral degrees.

As Title IX shows, good legislation can produce extraordinary results. Let’s take this opportunity to pass Parity on Public Boards legislation now so that in 2077 people will commemorate the legislation that led Massachusetts boards and commissions to truly reflect racial and gender parity. Without diverse voices and viewpoints on these critical panels, we risk implementing less effective policies, alienating our diverse communities, and missing out on powerful opportunities because we simply can’t see them.

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Beth Chandler is President and CEO of YW Boston. Jane C. Edmonds is the Vice President of Programming and Community Outreach at Babson College and a founding partner of Jane’s Way, LLC.