The Pipeline is the only organization exclusively focused on supporting women of color in public leadership in Massachusetts. As a coalition, the Pipeline is building a sustainable infrastructure that aligns current resources available in Massachusetts to increase and support the leadership of progressive women of color who are rooted in or have a deep understanding of low-income communities, recognizing they are the least represented in politics, civic leadership and government.
Since 1971, just over 80 women of color have been elected to office at the municipal, county or state level across Massachusetts. However, conditions are surely becoming more favorable, considering that 44 women of color ran for office in the Commonwealth during 2013.
Women’s Pipeline for Change is working to solidify and expand the infrastructure so outstanding progressive women of color leaders who want to make a difference in the public arena find resources and a supportive network to achieve greater impact.
The individuals and organizations that currently lead the Pipeline represent a wide range of fields, skills, and backgrounds, from community organizations, political organizing, and advocacy, to academia and research, training and leadership development.
As progressive women of color and allies, we believe that our political leadership must include the full diversity of our communities. Our government must ensure people of all races, ethnicities, sex, sexual orientations, gender identities, socio-economic classes, religions, immigration status and physical abilities have equal opportunity and equitable outcomes in all areas. Our government and political leaders must ensure housing, nutrition, education, healthcare, safety and true opportunities for all. Progressive women have these values at their core and exercise leadership. They strengthen an ethical and accountable government that supports inclusivity and widespread participation in elections and governance.
In 2008, a powerful group of innovative women leaders started meeting and thinking deeply and collaboratively about the challenges and opportunities women of color face to run for office. Over the course of 2009, more than 100 women leaders participated in these conversations convened by the Partnership for Democracy and Education, LLC. These women leaders confirmed a common agenda and a set of progressive values. They also defined solutions that addressed the needs of progressive women of color rooted in low-income communities who are engaged in public leadership.
Through 2010 and 2011, the Pipeline’s leaders focused on the launch of their first initiative, the Participatory Action Research Fellowship for Women of Color Leaders that explored opportunities and barriers for women of color running for office in Massachusetts. The research fellowship, featuring five extraordinary women of color community leaders, was implemented from May 2011 through June 2012 in conjunction with our academic partner institution, the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass Boston. (The research results are found at Pathways to Political Leadership for Women of Color, launched in 2013 as a dynamic set of online resources to inform, inspire and support women of color leaders.)
In 2011 and 2012, the Pipeline also held a series of successful community outreach events in Boston and Martha’s Vineyard with the participation of over 200 women leaders from Massachusetts and beyond. These events helped expand the Pipeline network and culminated in the celebration of the first statewide Women’s Pipeline for Change conference in May 2012, where 125 women of color leaders met in Boston to explore the challenges, opportunities, and resources available to advance their political leadership. The event featured inspiring women of color elected or appointed to office as well as the preliminary research results obtained by the Pipeline Research Fellows.
At the conference, the Pipeline also revealed our Leadership Development Model and the launch of our second initiative, a one-stop resource clearinghouse for women of color leaders.
In mid-2013, the Pipeline co-produced and launched the Pathways to Political Leadership for Women of Color website, in partnership with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston. The website contains a dynamic set of online resources with the results of the Pipeline’s Research Fellowship initiative.
The Pipeline also organized a series of strategic gatherings throughout 2013 to promote relationship building and networking among women of color leaders around the state. In April, a small ground of key leaders from Western Massachusetts met in Holyoke to explore ways to provide consistent support to women of color leaders in the region. In July, the Pipeline’s Summer Celebration in Boston recognized the record number of women of color running for municipal office in the fall, as well as the election of State Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry as the first Haitian-American to occupy a Senate seat.
Finally, in November 2013, the Pipeline held its Celebration of 40 Years of Women of Color Elected to Office in Massachusetts to acknowledge the leadership and courage of over 80 women of color who have held office in the Commonwealth since 1972. In late summer 2015, the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston will release a report highlighting the personal stories and achievements of many of these remarkable women.
In 2014–2015, the Pipeline has also developed two new leadership development programs that engaged women of color who are community organizers in comprehensive training, mentoring and networking opportunities.