Mandate Diversity On Massachusetts Boards and Commissions? Legislature To Consider Bill Doing Just That

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The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill that would mandate diversity by race, sex, and sexual orientation on public boards and commissions in the state, requiring 50 percent of members to be “female” and 30 percent to be members of  an “underrepresented minority” or “LGBTQ+.”

The bill would affect government boards, not private boards. But supporters said they’d like to see more diversity in private boards, as well.

“Our country is behind most of the rest of the world in diversifying our boards and our workplace, which means that we are putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage,” state treasurer Deborah Goldberg said during a public hearing of the state legislature’s Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight on May 10. (Her comments begin at 4:15 of the video of the hearing; the sentence quoted starts at 5:26.)

Goldberg stressed that diversity is “not simply a social good but a critical business imperative.” 

“Organizations that have more women and more people of color are more reflective of their customers and their constituents and are more creative, more innovative, more successful, and more profitable,” she said.

The measure, Massachusetts House Bill 3095, defines “diverse,” as someone who identifies as “female, underrepresented minority, or LGBTQ+.”

The bill defines “female,” as someone “who self-identifies her gender as female, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.”

“Underrepresented minority” is defined as someone who “self-identifies” as one of the “non-white” races or ethnicities reported in the Census Data.

The bill would require those public boards and commissions that cannot achieve the quotas to explain why they were unable to do so. They would also be tasked with “developing and implementing a plan to attract and recruit Diverse members.”

“When they’re not able to achieve this, we want to give them the opportunity to explain why and how they’re working towards parity,” said state Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover), who is co-sponsoring the measure with Representative Dawne Shand (D-Newburyport), during the May 10 hearing. (Nguyen’s appearance begins at 18:51 of the video; the sentence quoted begins at 20:53.)

Nguyen also discussed the importance of discovering ways to ensure diverse groups know about the positions available. “We cannot rely on recommendations,” she said, “because people tend to recommend those that they know who look like them.” 

“And so, how do we break out that diversity?” she asked.

State Senator Liz Miranda (D-Boston), who is sponsoring a companion bill in the Massachusetts Senate, also testified, saying progress on this matter has taken place elsewhere in the country since 2019, as several states have passed legislation to increase diversity on boards and commissions. Still, she said that “it’s only been in the number of white women and men of color in board leadership positions.”

“But there has been zero improvements for women of color,” Miranda said. (Her comments begin at 11:24 of the video.)

She said the bill should not draw opposition.

“This is a common-sense legislation that is noncontroversial, and will help improve the long-term power and pay inequities that persist in our commonwealth and the country, and is rooted across our workforce and entire economy,” Miranda said (at 13:24).

If the bill is enacted, each board and commission would be required to make a report to the governor’s office “at least once per fiscal year.” The governor’s office would then publish an annual report that summarizes the composition of each board and commission.

Neither Nguyen nor Shand could be reached for comment on Monday, June 5.

A copy of the bill is provided below.

An Act to promote diversity on public boards and commissions


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