Boston Herald, July 23, 2006. By Jennifer Heldt Powell
The old boy network may have to make room for a new girls network.
Just in time for the upcoming gubernatorial election, a dynamic group of women have launched the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project 2006, an organization dedicated to getting talented women into top government jobs.
"Historically, there's been this boys-in-the-back-room model. Women have never had that sort of organization," said Liz Levin, MassGap chairwoman and co-founder.
The group was initially formed shortly before the last gubernatorial election by the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus and the Alliance of Women's Business and Professional Organizations. They brought on board several other influential business and nonprofit groups.
Together, they convinced candidates to sign a pledge agreeing to hire more women and to consider the group's recommendations. Members of the group then sorted through 300 resumes to come up with a short list.
This time around, MassGap is starting earlier in hopes of getting even more resumes while raising awareness of the dearth of women in government.
"We, as women, are late to the game. Men have had extended networks for years," said Mary Fifield, board president of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. "(Elected officials) will lament that they can't find good women. We want to make those women more visible."
After the last election, the group recommended about 75 candidates for senior level jobs and others for board positions. Gov. Mitt Romney, who took the group's pledge, named three to top roles when he made his initial round of appointments. Others were named to senior level positions or moved to top jobs later.
Still, just 30.6 percent of the top appointed positions are held by women even though more than half of the state's population is female, according to the University of Massachusetts Center for the Study of Women in Politics and Public Policy.
"You get the best government if you have a variety of views represented," Levin said.
Women approach problems differently and they have different views on key issues, said MassGap organizers.
Having women at the top can help open doors for other women, as well.
"We're not looking for window dressing and we're not looking for favors," Fifield said. "We're looking for equity, exposure, credibility."
Women struggle to get ahead because they aren't as well- connected as men, she said.
By banding together, organizers say women will be able to build the clout necessary to get the attention of key decision-makers. They also will be able to gain visibility to attract potential job candidates.
Once resumes are collected, seven task forces will review them to find the very best. Those will be handed to the next governor.
Anne L. Collins, the registrar of the Department of Motor Vehicles, believes it works. She joined state government in 1989 but felt her career had stalled.
"I felt sure I would never get a higher position because I wasn't political," she said.
Her resume was among those given to Romney. He first appointed her to be director of professional licensure and later promoted her to her current job.
Massachusetts Highway Department Commissioner Luisa M. Paiewonsky also credits the group with helping her get ahead.
"I wouldn't have gotten this job because I wouldn't have had the exposure," she said.