The floor of the TD Garden pulsed with revelers, all of them celebrating Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey’s historic political win. By electing Maura and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, voters simultaneously chose their first lesbian governor and the country’s first female governing duo.
Maura’s sweeping inaugural speech, feeling national in scope, held the door open for all those coming behind her. Her proposed budget makes good on inaugural commitments, calling for dramatically increased spending on accessible and affordable childcare, environmental justice initiatives, transportation, and higher education for all. Maura presented the plan flanked by her team, visually demonstrating their shared labor.
Holding the budget document in the air, she made her point about equity and inclusivity explicit: “There are people behind every number.”
On inauguration night, moments before Maura took the stage, Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll (no stranger to breaking barriers herself as the first female mayor of Salem, MA) spoke to ALL who believe in the power and hope of women’s leadership: “We may be the first all-female team leading the state, but we will not be the last.”
The evening’s display of lesbian accomplishment and exuberance filled me with pride. From her speech to her selection of entertainers, Maura signaled that teamwork — shared responsibility, effort, and power — would define her leadership style. The inaugural ball buttons sported basketball seams and the slogan, “Moving the Ball Forward.”
With their arms around each other, Maura and Kim made it clear that they would act swiftly, assuredly, and from a place of compassion and inclusivity.
Was it a coincidence both women wore sneakers? Was it merely the venue that inspired their staffers to hand out basketball-themed buttons? Not a chance! Maura and Kim grew into the leaders we saw on stage in part — and I’d say large part — through their experience playing basketball.
Maura played point guard for Harvard, captaining her college team and then playing professionally in Europe. Kim played for, and later coached, the Salem State Vikings. Maura and Kim’s inauguration, and their evident focus on teamwork and “winning” with grace and determination, supported the theory of change to which I’ve long subscribed:
Investing in women’s sports helps to build diversity in leadership.
Sports is a game changer for shifting the leadership paradigm. The women leaders on stage inauguration night changed the story of the state of Massachusetts and our nation. The leadership qualities Maura and Kim display — confidence, resilience, determination, courage, social-emotional acuity, and a preference for team-based problem solving — are in large part born of sport.
Now, as March Madness gets underway, we can follow the games with an additional lens: enjoying high-level women athletes compete and ‘take up space on the court’ while also knowing that we are watching future governors, commissioners, entrepreneurs and CEOs.
The role of sport as a leadership incubator for women is now as evident in the Massachusetts State House as it is in boardrooms across the U.S., where 94% of female C-suite executives played sports, 52% of them at the university level.
The proof of concept of a large part of my life’s work was undeniably front and center on stage on inauguration night — and this point guard leader of the movement was beaming!
During the celebration, the live music joyously embodied barrier-breaking. Roxbury’s own Oompa radiated Black female power and positivity, rapping without apology: I deserve that. Brandi Carlile brought her wife up for a tender and rare duet, reminiscing about their decision to get married here when Massachusetts was one of the few states to recognize unions like theirs legally.
But what about the audience? When I looked around, this same celebration of diverse representation wasn’t reflected in the local, mostly white and male, power-players. Although the face of power is growing more diverse, the pace of change is glacial.
We know diverse leadership positively impacts the bottom line, yet companies are slow to foster it, and Black Women face the biggest hurdles to workplace advancement. In 2020, McKinsey’s “Diversity Wins” report studied over 1,000 companies in 15 countries to find:
- Companies with the most diverse leadership financially outperform their peers by 25%.
- Gender parity at the executive level is 29 years away at the current rate of progress.
- For every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, only 60 Black women receive that same initial promotion. For women overall it’s 79.
- While U.S. employees’ sentiment regarding diversity is positive overall, their perception of “inclusion” in the workplace is pessimistic: 61% have a negative perception of their work place’s ability to foster equality, openness, and belonging.
More recently, the following stark data points on the pace of diversity efforts at the leadership level surfaced in a joint report from McKinsey and the World Economic Forum (2023):
- Two out of three companies have not made progress in executive-team diversity over the past five years. Some even reversed previous progress.
- In six years, from 2016 to 2022, the proportion of women at the director-and-up leadership level increased by only 3.6% globally (from 33.3% to 36.9%).
Immense work remains to bring about needed change in the demographic diversity of those in positions of power who will be there to welcome and support the women who make it to “the top ‘’ and to joyfully undertake the task of shifting culture toward inclusion. We have work to do to recognize, reflect and accelerate these shifts.
These data points and realities influenced my shift to “Move My Ball Forward” towards shared power. I still coach hope, optimism, and action. My mission hasn’t changed — I show up on the frontlines of lifting up women leaders in sports, philanthropy, and business — but the work now has an intentional lens of racial equity.
Today, I often show up as an ally and humble accomplice, and where there is appetite and invitation, a co-conspirator. I’m intentionally working in spaces as a teammate of and advocate for Black and Brown women leaders. I raise my voice in service to their goals. I show up with shared values leading the way, modeling the ways that the work of uplifting women’s leadership — both our own and that of others — can nourish us, body, mind, and spirit while also Moving the Ball Forward towards equity and justice.
One way to get in the game is to move your money for impact. Whether you’re a high-net worth investor, you’re managing a modest retirement portfolio, or you buy goods and services, I invite you to align your money with your values. Practice self care, and remember Coach Tuti is cheering you on. Let’s shift power together, on and off the court!
P.S. Feel Free to share where you might be Moving Your Ball Forward this year — or your favorite coach or team you’re cheering on during the women’s NCAA Final Four!
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