The Boston Foundation’s Baby Steps toward Gender Diversity

Print Share on LinkedIn More

June 16, 2016; Boston Globe

Last Thursday, The Boston Foundation announced the appointment of two women to its board of directors. Starting on June 30th, Sandra Edgerley, former director at Bain & Co., will be the foundation’s chair, and Linda Mason, co-founder of Bright Horizons, will be its vice chair.

The Boston Foundation is the largest foundation in Massachusetts and one of the largest in the Northeast, with nearly $1 billion in assets and annual giving over $100 million. Beyond its philanthropic giving, TBF—through President Paul Grogan and its board—plays a significant role as a civic actor and influencer in New England, most recently commissioning a paper that highlighted potential positive impacts of Boston hosting the 2024 Olympics.

The appointment of two women is part of the foundation’s “aggressive” effort in ensuring that women are well represented on the board, an area where foundations have been critiqued in recent years. Seven of The Boston Foundation’s 18 directors are women, a little less than 40 percent, which actually isn’t all that aggressive—The Boston Foundation’s mix is in line with the national average for nonprofits, where women currently account for 43 percent of the board seats among all nonprofits and 33 percent of those seats at large nonprofits, defined as $25 million or greater in annual income. The Boston Club, a Massachusetts-based association that promotes women in leadership roles, recently found that little progress in balancing these numbers has been made in recent years. Of the 150 largest nonprofit organizations, only 21 had boards that comprised 50 percent female directors, unmoved from 2013.

While The Boston Foundation’s gender mix indicates that this is more of a stabilizing move rather than real progression towards gender diversity, this is the first time that the top two board positions at the Foundation will be held by women. Both Edgerley and Mason have strong resumes that boast strong private sector careers, with significant nonprofit board—but not staff—experience.

“I am confident that under the leadership of Sandy Edgerley and Linda Mason, our board of directors will guide this organization into a new era of growth and strength,” stated Grogan in the organization’s official release.

No mention was made about the apparent lack of racial diversity in the triad of those two board roles and the CEO leadership position. Perhaps progress, in this case, depends upon the lens.—Danielle Holly