On November 18, the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy (CWPPP), based at the McCormack Graduate School, convened the second biennial New England Women’s Policy Conference at UMass Boston. The conference is part of an on-going regional initiative designed to galvanize action by leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to address persistent issues of economic inequality. This year’s conference gathered over 400 attendees who met only ten days after the 2016 presidential election that left many worried about whether the advances made by women, people of color, and low-wage workers will be reversed in the next four years.
Through panels, plenaries, and a keynote address by Mary Frances Berry, a civil rights champion and historian, conference attendees discussed the importance of pushing for what is fair and just, especially in times of uncertainty. Berry, former chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, eloquently articulated the need for activists, policymakers, and business leaders to work together to achieve the overarching goals of the New England Women’s Policy Initiative (NEWPI). While acknowledging the obstacles ahead, Berry said, “Be upset and mad about the election, but don’t agonize over it…be mad and move forward.”
The New England Women’s Policy Initiative focuses on five key policy areas that will ensure economic security for all women and their families. The program included tracks organized around these five policy areas, with two panels in each track. These tracks focused on equal pay, paid family and medical leave, training and workforce development, issues affecting early care and education teachers, and issues facing home health aides essential to elder care. Over 50 moderators and speakers gathered to present in depth dialogue on legislation, advocacy, and voluntary employer policies. The panels explored effective strategies for what has been done to move the needle on these policy issues across the six New England states. View all panel videos here.
In addition, the program included plenary sessions by two national organizations: “Prosperity Together” that coordinates women’s funds to invest in grassroots organizations that advance women’s economic security (see video of the first plenary); and the “United State of Women,” a nonpartisan effort that encourages women to run for office and increase their participation in civic life (see video of the second plenary).
In the afternoon, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren gave her first public remarks after the election to attendees at the New England Women’s Policy Conference. Her speech not only addressed a number of the policy priorities of NEWPI–such as pay equity, paid FMLA, and affordable childcare–but she also urged the conference participants toward action based on respect for all marginalized and underrepresented groups. She said, “Let me say this as clearly as I can, there can be no compromise with racism, there can be no negotiation with bigotry, this is where we stand.” She also gave a rallying cry to the many activists who came to the conference unclear about an uncertain future and next steps. Many attendees left feeling energized and prepared to fight for what they know women, and women of color in particular, need–policy change at the local, state, and federal levels that puts the needs of those most vulnerable at the top of an economic justice agenda. Senator Warren left us with this charge: “History calls on us, this is our time to stand and fight for our principles.”
Photo: Senator Elizabeth Warren (center) with Dean Cash and Director of CWPPP Ann Bookman at the 2nd biennial New England Women’s Policy Conference
The Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy is committed to advancing women’s participation in public life. Recognizing the talent and potential of women from every community, and guided by the urban mission of an intellectually vibrant and diverse university in the heart of Boston, they seek to expand the involvement of women in politics and policies that affect them, their families, and their communities.