March 22, 2019
Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators Ushers in a New Session
BOSTON – The 191st legislative session of the Massachusetts General Court is well underway on Beacon Hill with a record number of women represented in the first year class. The House of Representatives welcomes 12 women among its 23 new legislators. In the Senate, 3 of the 5 newly-elected Senators are women. The Senate is led by its third female President, Senator Karen E. Spilka, and Representative Patricia A. Haddad resumes the role of Speaker Pro-Tempore in the House, a position she has held since 2011. Female legislators now comprise 28.5 percent of the Massachusetts legislature. The previous high point reached last in 2009 (as well as 2003, 2000, and 1999) was 52 women or 26 percent of the legislature.
The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, a bicameral and bipartisan group of legislators, is chaired this session by Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Liz Malia (D-Boston). The Caucus’ Board of Directors also includes: Vice-Chairs Representative Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) and Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) as Treasurer, former House Chair Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover), Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston), Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), and Representative Carole Fiola (D-Fall River).
The Caucus also convenes four taskforces to examine the following issues: Sexual Assault, co-chaired by Representatives Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield); Pre-term Birth and Maternal Health, headed by Speaker Pro-Tempore Haddad (D-Somerset); Justice Involved Women, led by Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton) and Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville), the latter spearheads the Caucus Bylaw Review as well. Leaders of the taskforces are also members of the Caucus’ Board of Directors.
In January, prior to the technical beginning of the new session, the Caucus saw the passage of a long-time priority, An Act providing for equitable coverage in disability policies, championed by Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton). This law prohibits gender discrimination in disability insurance policies. Following that strong start, the Caucus named seven priorities for the new session.
The Caucus continues to prioritize combatting sexual assault on college campuses and express strong support for H.1208/S.736, An Act requiring sexual misconduct climate surveys at institutions of higher education, The Joint Committee on Higher Education will publicly hear the bill on Tuesday, April 9.
Other Caucus priorities include: An Act amending the statute of limitations regarding criminal prosecutions of the crimes of sexual assault and rape of child, An Act to end child marriage in Massachusetts (the Senate file of this bill will be heard on March 26), An Act relative to the penalties for the crime of female genital mutilation, An Act supporting parents running for public office, An Act relative to Medicaid coverage for doula services, and An Act requiring one fair wage.
January 23, 2017:
NEW BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR MASSACHUSETTS CAUCUS OF WOMEN LEGISLATORS
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators has announced their Board of Directors for the 2017-2018 legislative session.
Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominister) and Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) will serve as Co-Chairs; Senator Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) and Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville) will serve as Co-Vice Chairs; Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) was elected Treasuer; and past Senate Chair Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), Representative Denise Garlick (D-Needham), Representative Carole Fiola (D-Fall River), Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), Representative Juana Matias (D-Lawrence) and Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) will also serve on the Board.
Established in 1975, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators was formed with a mission to enhance the economic status and equality of women and to encourage and support women in all levels of government. It is a bi-cameral and bi-partisan organization that is comprised of the women State Senators and State Representatives at the State House. The Board of Directors serves as the governing body of the Women’s Caucus and provides guidance on events and policy.
There are currently 52 women legislators that make up 26% of the Massachusetts legislature. Throughout the history of the Commonwealth, only 196 women have served as elected officials in the legislature compared to over 20,000 men.
October 27, 2016:
MASSACHUSETTS CAUCUS OF WOMEN LEGISLATORS CONVENES SEXUAL ASSAULT WORKING GROUP
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators convened their first-ever Sexual Assault Working Group on Tuesday, October 18th with over 15 women legislators’ offices represented.
The Women’s Caucus had envisioned this collaboration for quite some time in order to get all interested members around the same table to discuss legislation and ideas for the upcoming legislative session. With incidents of sexual assault being reported in the national and local media and the highly charged emotion around the topic, the Caucus wants to be part of the solution. Many Women’s Caucus members filed legislation aimed at addressing the sexual assault epidemic and providing an open forum for discussion will enhance collaboration and success.
The success of the rape kit preservation law, filed by Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), and signed by Governor Baker on Wednesday, October 19th helps lay the path for future legislation and ideas. The law will now require police departments and crime labs to store rape kit evidence for the entire statute of limitations, which is no less than 15 years. Previously, rape kits could be destroyed after six months and survivors had to re-petition every six months to keep them preserved.
“Sexual assault affects women and men, of all ages, throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Senate Chair of the Women’s Caucus. “I am glad that Massachusetts has heard the voice of survivors by passing the rape kit preservation law and that members of the Women’s Caucus are having an open dialogue about what else can be done to eliminate this culture. Our Sexual Assault Working Group aims to be productive over the next two months in order to be prepared to help tackle this issue during the next legislative session.”
“It is so important for the Women’s Caucus to be involved in helping to end the sexual assault epidemic in our Commonwealth,” said Representative Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), House Chair of the Women’s Caucus. “We need to work with men and women, young and old, to help them understand healthy relationships and how to be an informed bystander to help prevent these incidents.”
“There is great interest in stemming the culture of rape here in the Commonwealth and the women in the legislature are stepping up,” said Rep. Farley-Bouvier. “We are collaborating with the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and many experts in the field and as a team, we plan to bring some common sense solutions next session.”
“I’m extremely appreciative of all of my colleagues in the House, and particularly Representative Farley-Bouvier, for their hard work and tireless advocacy in passing this important piece of legislation,” said Representative Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead). “This issue is deeply personal for survivors of sexual assault, who already bear the immense burden of healing from the crimes committed against them, and I’m grateful that our state was able to take a step towards lifting some of the weight by removing unnecessary and unreasonable barriers standing in the way of justice and recovery.”
“The passage of the rape kit preservation law is another important step towards a justice system that supports victims of sexual assault,” said Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), Treasurer of the Women’s Caucus. “I am grateful to Representative Farley-Bouvier for her leadership on this crucial legislation and to Speaker DeLeo for his support. I'm also proud of the leadership of the Caucus of Women Legislators and looking forward to making more progress on these crucial issues, including campus sexual assault, through our Sexual Assault Working Group."
The Women’s Caucus organized a sign-on letter of support in favor of the rape kit preservation bill and is currently circulating a letter of support for a resolve that would create a task force to develop a campus climate survey. The campus climate survey legislation was filed by Representative Lori Ehrlich and would create a task force to develop a model sexual assault climate survey to issues to students anonymously at public and private institutions of higher learning in Massachusetts. The collection of this date will allow these institutions to better understand and address sexual assault on colleges campuses.
One in five women are victims of sexual assault during their lifetime. Taking steps to provide a more open dialogue, ensure resources and access to evidence for survivors and making smart policy choices to educate our youth and college students is imperative to helping end the culture of sexual assault in Massachusetts.
July 28, 2015:
WOMEN’S CAUCUS & BLACK AND LATINO LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS HONOR AFRICAN AMERICAN EQUAL PAY DAY
BOSTON – On Tuesday, July 28th, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators and the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus collaborated to host an informational briefing in recognition of African American Equal Pay Day.
While the gender wage gap is often cited at women making 77 cents on the white, male dollar, the wage gap between different races is drastically different. On average, African American women earn 64 cents on the white male dollar and their Latina counterparts are even worse off at earning 54 cents on the white male dollar. It is important to focus the discussion on all of these disparities and to educate the public on how large these gaps are.
Tuesday, July 28th marked the day until which African American women must work in order to earn the same amount as their white male counterparts for the year of 2014 - almost seven months longer in order to even out.
The briefing included remarks from Boston City Councilor-At-Large Ayanna Pressley, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Jacqueline Cooke, Research Director for the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston Christa Kelleher and Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Future Boston Alliance Malia Lazu.
The briefing was moderated by Rep. Russell Holmes (D – Boston), Chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and also included remarks by Representative Ellen Story (D – Amherst), one of the main co-sponsors of An Act to Establish Pay Equity, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D – Boston), Senate Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, and Representative Gloria Fox (D – Roxbury/Boston), House Chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators.
For more information on An Act to Establish Pay Equity, please visit the Massachusetts Equal Pay Coalition website: www.MAEqualPayCoalition.com
July 22, 2015:
WOMEN’S CAUCUS HELPS ORGANIZE PRESS CONFERENCE IN SUPPORT OF EQUAL PAY BILL
BOSTON – On Tuesday, July 21st, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators helped organize a press conference/rally in support of the Equal Pay Bill at the State House.
The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators collaborated with the Massachusetts Equal Pay Coalition in highlighting the importance of passing the Equal Pay Bill. Members of the legislature and the coalition stood in solidarity with members of the public and rallied the crowd to voice their support and join them in Gardner Auditorium for the hearing of the bill before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.
“I am pleased that the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators has chosen Equal Pay as its priority legislation this session,” said Senator Anne Gobi (D – Spencer). “In 1923, Representative Susan Walker Fitzgerald was the first woman elected to the Massachusetts legislature and she was the first legislator to push for equal pay. We have been talking about this for far too long – now is the time to get something done.”
“It’s 2015 and it’s long past time for employers in this state and across the country to pay women the same wage for the same work. When a woman’s pay falls behind, families fall behind. We need to do better, because this isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a core economic security challenge for our families and for our state,” said Attorney General Maura Healey.
"Wage equality is not just a women's issue," said Treasurer Deb Goldberg. "It's a family issue and it's an economic imperative that affects the health and well-being of our entire state."
“Equal pay for equal work should be a no brainer,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay. It is time for action to bridge the gender wage gap and ensure equal pay. It is time for equality and opportunity for all women.”
“We have talked about and studied the pay gap for long enough – it’s time for us to address it head on,” said Senator Patricia Jehlen (D – Somerville).
“It has been 95 years since 1920, when women won the right to vote,” said Representative Ellen Story (D – Amherst). “2015 seems like a good year for women to finally be paid an equal amount of money as their male peers.”
“As we’ve heard here today, closing the gender wage gap has been a long time coming, and we need to fight until every worker in the Commonwealth is compensated for the work that they do. While I know that this is one ofmany steps toward closing the gap, I feel confident that Massachusetts can lead the way for Equal Pay,” said Representative Jay Livingstone (D – Boston).
“We are so grateful to our champions in the State House who are standing up to eliminate the wage gap,” said Katie Prisco-Buxbaum, the Communications Director for Equal Pay Coalition. “The Coalition looks forward to continuing to bring awareness to this issue and working with our allies in government to ensure women and people of color are paid fairly and equitably.”
The Equal Pay Bill seeks to bridge the wage gap in three main ways: demand equal pay for comparable work, establish pay transparency, and require fairness in hiring practices.
February 23, 2015:
MASSACHUSETTS CAUCUS OF WOMEN LEGISLATORS WELCOMES BIG SISTER TO THE STATE HOUSE
BOSTON- On Thursday February 19, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators partnered with the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston to welcome young girls from the area to the historic State House.
The Big Sister Association of Greater Boston aims to provide young girls with positive female mentors who provide strength and knowledge to help the girls reach their full potential in life. The Big Sister program works to enable young girls to become confident, caring and competent in every way of life.
The Big Sister Association serves 69 cities and about 3,600 girls in the Greater Boston area.. The Big Sister Association of Greater Boston is the only Big Brother Big Sister affiliation in the United States to focus exclusively on mentoring young girls.
The young girls and their Big Sisters took a tour of the State House to learn about the history of the Massachusetts government. They also met with women legislators in the House Chamber to ask questions, discuss prominent women’s issues and to talk about the importance of women participating in politics. The discussion was led by Caucus Co-Chair Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) with participation of Representative Denise Provost (D-Somerville), Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville) and Representative Liz Malia (D-Jamaica Plain).
“It is inspiring to meet with young women who have aspirations to make a positive difference in their community,” said Sen. Gobi. “I have no doubt after meeting with them and their mentors that they will succeed.”
“Mentoring young women is one of the most important things I can accomplish in my position,” said Representative Provost.
“It’s great to see so many young girls interested in learning about state government. Having a mentor and a role model to look up to is such an important opportunity for young girls, and I look forward to working with the Big Sister Association to support their programs in my district and across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Barber.
“In this day in age we must ensure that we have more active and engaged Women in politics. I applaud The Big Sisters program for connecting these young women with a mentor who can act as a resource and help guide them. Mentoring our youth is something I encourage all women to do, it truly does make a difference,” said Representative Malia.
For more information on the work of the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, please visit: www.bigsister.org
February 18, 2015:
NEW VICE CHAIRS FOR MASSACHUSETTS CAUCUS OF WOMEN LEGISLATORS
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators announced today that Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D – Dorchester) and Representative Jennifer Benson (D – Lunenberg) will serve as Co- Vice Chairs for the 2015-2016 legislative session. They will be joining the leadership of Chairs Senator Anne Gobi and Representative Gloria Fox.
Established in 1975, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators was formed with a mission to enhance the economic status and equality of women and to encourage and support women in all levels of government. It is a bi-partisan organization comprised of the women State Senators and State Representatives. There are currently 50 women legislators that make up 25% of the Massachusetts legislature. Throughout the history of the Commonwealth, only 189 women have served as elected officials in the legislature compared to over 20,000 men.
“I am thrilled to be named the Senate Vice Chair of the Women’s Caucus. For the past 10 years, I have served as a member of the Caucus, working on issues that impact families in our state,” said Senator Forry,“I look forward to working with our Chairs to shift the paradigm of how people view women’s issues. Most of the problems we face, we face together. They do not confine themselves to one gender or another. The fact of the matter is, all issues are women’s issues.”
“I am honored to serve as Co-Vice Chair with Senator Forry over the course of the 2015-2016 legislative session. The Caucus of Women Legislators provides valuable insight and discussion on issues that women and their families face every day. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with my colleagues as we work towards accomplishing the Caucus’ mission to enhance the economic status and equality of women, as well as to encourage and support women in all levels of government,” said Representative Benson.
This is the first year that the Women’s Caucus has had the positions of Co-Vice Chairs in addition to the Co-Chairs.
February 5, 2015:
MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE SUPPORTS GO RED FOR WOMEN MOVEMENT
BOSTON – On Wednesday, February 4, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, Co-Chaired by Senator Anne M. Gobi and Representative Gloria L. Fox, partnered with the American Heart Association for the annual Go Red For Women Movement at the State House.
Go Red For Women is the American Heart Association’s national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. More women than men die every year from heart disease and stroke – almost 1 in 3 women will die from it this year. The good news is that 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.
Legislators from across the state donned red in honor of National Wear Red Day to support the cause and raise awareness and advocate for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health. Remarks were given by Senator Gobi, Representative Fox, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and survivor Jessica Diaz.
“Thank you to the American Heart Association and Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators for their continuous advocacy on behalf of women’s health,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “You and the courageous survivors we meet each year have shown us that we can fight disease by making lifestyle choices to reduce risk and encouraging others to do the same.”
“I would like to thank the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement for all of their hard work on this issue of cardiovascular disease in women,” said Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D – Worcester). “Go Red for Women has made remarkable progress over the past 10 years, impacting the cardiovascular health of women. I am excited to be part of this annual event with my colleagues.”
“I appreciate the wonderful support from my fellow legislators who attended the event and for their commitment to working with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about heart disease and strokes,” said Senator Anne Gobi (D – Spencer). “I am hopeful that with increased attention and advances in medicine that these silent killers will one day be eradicated.”
“I never miss our Go Red for Women event here at the State House; this is important to me because African American and Lantina women are impacted in high numbers,” said Representative Gloria Fox (D – Roxbury). “We must continue to educate and bring awareness about heart disease and stroke across the Commonwealth, and I look forward to seeing the Heart Association doing local awareness events.”
For more information on steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, please visit: GoRedForWomen.org or Heart.org
January 8, 2015:
NEW CO-CHAIRS FOR MASSACHUSETTS CAUCUS OF WOMEN LEGISLATORS
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators announced today that Senator Anne M. Gobi (D – Spencer) and Representative Gloria L. Fox (D – Roxbury) will serve as Co-Chairs for the 2015-2016 legislative session.
Established in 1975, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators was formed with a mission to enhance the economic status and equality of women and to encourage and support women in all levels of government. It is a bi-cameral and bi-partisan organization that is comprised of the women State Senators and State Representatives at the State House.
There are currently 50 women legislators that make up 25% of the Massachusetts legislature. Throughout the history of the Commonwealth, only 189 women have served as elected officials in the legislature compared to over 20,000 men.
“I am honored to co-chair this important caucus and the opportunity to work on issues that affect not just women, but that impact every family across the State,” said Senator Gobi.
"It is with great pleasure that I assume the position as Co-chair of the Women's Caucus, as the longest seated woman in the House I plan to use my years of experience and knowledge as a means to empower my colleagues in a day to day achievement of our mission,” said Rep. Fox. "My hope is that as we support each other, we are showing other women that is alright to run for office.”