BOSTON (State House News Service) - Gov. Maura Healey has said that her administration will put an emphasis on equity in all the decisions it makes and on Thursday detailed the "equity audit" that she will soon launch to "get our arms around what's happening on equity right now."
In her inaugural speech last week, Healey said that she would direct each agency under her administration to conduct a full equity audit. And on the livestreamed "Java with Jimmy" show with host Jimmy Hills, the governor said from her State House office Thursday morning that she plans to sign an executive order soon to "create an interagency council task force that is going to look at equity across the board, across all of our commissions and departments, and across the secretariats."
"The outcome and the purpose of this is to break down barriers, to make sure that those who have been marginalized for far too long, those who are suffering disproportionate and disparate impacts across any number of realms, are -- first off, you've got to see it, right. To do something about something, you actually have to recognize that there is a something there that's wrong," she said. "I mean, we know it, right? But making sure we have that intentionality around a look. And then we can make sure that we're working every day on the policies to address those disparities."
Healey ticked through a litany of ways in which equity could be measured in the audit: "we can measure that in terms of ridership on transportation, public transportation, health outcomes, who's using what in terms of government services ... environmental justice, climate impacts ... what's happening with respect to housing security, food security, and back to representation, what's happening in terms of actual numbers of people working where or appointed where."
In October, the Eos Foundation's Women's Power Gap Initiative released a report that touched on a sliver of what Healey described Thursday. The organization found that while 28 of the state's top 50 boards and commissions are now chaired by a woman -- up from 17 when the foundation first began reporting in 2019 and the first time a majority of those groups were chaired by a woman -- people of color are still underrepresented and most of the panels are still made up of a majority of men.
Eos Foundation President Andrea Silbert attributed the heightened number of women board chairs to the Baker administration's intentional effort to recruit and appoint women to those positions, and said that the state now needs to "shift that intentionality to women and men of color, LGBTQ2+, trans women, veterans, and the disability communities."
"We urge the next Administration to build on our current success, accelerating diversity to better guide our state during these challenging times," Silbert said a few weeks before Healey was elected.
On Thursday, Healey talked about the importance of representation and having people of diverse backgrounds involved in decision-making. She said her administration's chief secretary, April English, will focus on that as she and her team work to fill seats on state boards and commissions. She said diversity has been an important consideration as she has assembled her Cabinet.
"I'm really psyched about our Cabinet. You know, we're working our way through our Cabinet, but we've got some really great, great folks there and a diversity represented there that I'm really pleased about," Healey said.
She added, "Conversation changes based on who's in the room. I saw that as the country's first gay attorney general, right. I happen to be the first lesbian governor now in the country. And, of course, my job is to make sure I'm not the last."
During her half-hour with Java with Jimmy, Healey also talked about how she is feeling mentally and emotionally now that the inauguration events are over and she is settling into her new job.
"This last year was hard. I was trying to be a good attorney general, I was running for this job, I was just trying to manage life, and I had a lot of support from friends, family, others along the way. And I feel a calm," Healey said. "I just came into the State House this morning and I feel such hope and optimism, and I feel a calm within me and a huge optimism about what's possible. And I'd say it's the first time I've felt that calm in a while."
Written by Colin A. Young/SHNS