2018: A Year of Social Justice Movements in Massachusetts and Beyond

By Ranelle Porter,

By Michael Givens | December 28, 2018 | 4 Minute Read

From the Yes on 3 campaign in Massachusetts to the successful efforts of supporting citizenship applications for immigrants, social justice movements have made this a year full of achievements. It’s crucial for us to take time to celebrate these important milestones as we look to another year of good in 2019. Here are just a few of our 2018 accomplishments:

The Yes on 3 Campaign in Massachusetts

Yes on 3, a coalition of LGBTQ and other social justice advocacy groups, spent two years educating Bay State residents about the public accommodations law and the importance of voting “Yes” on ballot question 3 during the midterm elections. The ballot question sought to dismantle legal protections for transgender people in Massachusetts. A “yes” vote would keep the law intact and protect the rights of transgender people in public spaces. Eastern Bank, a champion for transgender rights, lent its name to the campaign along with other corporations, faith leaders, small businesses, and several sports teams. The campaign proved successful when nearly 70 percent of voters in Massachusetts’ midterm elections voted “yes.”

Protecting New Hampshire’s Transgender Citizens

Until June of this year, New Hampshire was the only New England state that did not provide legal protections for transgender people in several key areas. In June, Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill providing legal protections to transgender people in public spaces, housing, and employment. This incredible win for the trans community in New Hampshire moves us one step closer to ensuring that all trans people are treated as equals.

A Historic Midterm Election

Civic participation will always be the cornerstone of any strong democracy. Voter turnout in the November 6th midterm election was the highest it’s been since 1914. Roughly 49 percent of the voting population in the country, or 116 million people, voted in the midterm elections. Twenty-five states reported having 50 percent or more of its eligible voters show up at the polls. The message is clear—voting is important, even in non-presidential years.

Diversity Matters

The historic midterm election turnout also gave way to a diverse pool of female elected officials. The state of Massachusetts elected its first Black congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley while Connecticut experienced a similar milestone with the election of Jahana Hayes as the state’s first Black congresswoman. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will be the first Muslim women elected to Congress. In Kansas, Sharice Davids will join New Mexican Deb Haaland as the first Native American women elected to Congress. At the age of 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York will be the youngest woman to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. These victories are not only monumental, but they also help to position women to make even more strides in the coming years.

Arthur Ashe Courage Award

In July, Eastern Bank Partner For Good Aly Raisman received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs. She accepted the award alongside other survivors, on behalf of the more than 300 women who alleged that former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused them. As Eastern Bank’s Partner For Good, Aly Raisman has been working to bring awareness of childhood sexual abuse through her partnership with nonprofit Darkness to Light.

Project Citizenship

As in previous years, Eastern Bank participated in Citizenship Day, an annual holiday acknowledging those who’ve attained their citizenship. Partnering with Project Citizenship, Eastern Bank volunteers spent some of their time providing support and resources to immigrants who were applying to become permanent U.S. residents in September.

Eastern Bank in Roxbury

This year Eastern Bank opened a branch in Roxbury, the first bank branch opening in the neighborhood in 20 years. The Roxbury branch illustrates Eastern Bank’s commitment to providing quality financial services to communities in need.

Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce

This year, Eastern Bank sponsored the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce launch. Newly founded, the Chamber “seeks to promote economic growth and viability for LGBT-owned and allied businesses, corporations, and professionals throughout the Commonwealth.”

Advancing Women

In 2018, Eastern Bank’s Join Us For Good initiative focused on the achievements of women leaders within the greater Boston area. From community activism and advocating for LGBTQ rights to giving women and communities of color a voice to create change, these women are champions of social justice.

These accomplishments are only the beginning. As we move into 2019, we look forward to celebrating even more accomplishments of social justice movements in our communities.

Join the movement, the movement of doing good things to help people and communities prosper.

Celebrating the Women in 2018 Who Have Inspired Us

By Ranelle Porter,

By Satta Sarmah Hightower | December 20, 2018 | 5 Minute Read

From making sure that our city is more diverse and inclusive to elevating women in the corporate world and higher education, women leaders have made a significant impact within their communities this year. Here’s a recap of the women in 2018 whom Eastern Bank has highlighted for their groundbreaking work.

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion

As the President and CEO of the Partnership, Inc., an organization focused on diversifying New England’s workforce, Carol Fulp is a changemaker. Named one of Boston’s 50 Most Powerful People, Fulp says fostering diversity isn’t only the right thing to do—it’s essential for a business’s success.

Fulp isn’t the only leader with this mission. Dr. Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, the CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA)—a nonprofit focused on helping Massachusetts families find affordable housing, education and employment—has spent the last 15 years working with policymakers, law enforcement, and other cross-functional groups to propel change in the city and provide more opportunities for multicultural communities.

A Dedication to Community Activism

The Shaws are no strangers to caring for a community. Sarah-Ann and her daughter, Klare, have championed several causes focused on fostering more equity and justice in the city.

During the Civil Rights Era, Sarah-Ann played a large role in coordinating voter and housing education efforts. Klare’s career has focused more on working with organizations to better the state of Massachusetts and Boston public schools.

Even though they’ve been activists for decades, the Shaws say there’s still more work to do.

“People ask me what’d I’d like to see happen,” says Sarah-Ann. “I would like to see a more level playing field. Whether that’s people sitting on boards, people getting jobs, people getting a proper education, people getting a house—a roof over their heads.”

Building a Legacy of Higher Education

Pat Meservey, the president emerita of Salem State University, has spent her career working to advance women in leadership and education.

Under Meservey’s leadership, Salem State’s graduation rates increased, especially among minority students. Like the Shaws, she works to create a more level playing field where everyone has the same opportunities.

“How important is equal opportunity? It’s essential for our society,” she says. “If we’re able to provide education across all economic groups, then everyone is going to have an opportunity to succeed and that’s going to make for a better society.”

Opening Doors for Women in STEM

In 1989, Judy Nitsch launched Nitsch Engineering, one of the state’s top 25 engineering firms. And over the last 30 years, she’s been a vocal champion for advancing women and helping them to receive the same opportunities that she struggled to earn early in her career.

Today her engineering staff at Nitsch Engineering is 37 percent women, versus 12 percent for civil engineering nationally. For the last 16 years, Nitsch also has hosted “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day—empowering young girls to seek out opportunities in STEM.

Advancing the Rights of the LGBTQ Community

For more than 40 years, Catherine D’Amato has worked to safeguard the rights of the LGBTQ community. She was the founding incorporator of the world’s first LGBTQ foundation, the Horizon’s Foundation, and served on the New England regional board and the national Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign in Boston. Along with this advocacy work, for 23 years D’Amato has led the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Like D’Amato, Nancy Stager, Eastern Bank’s executive vice president for human resources and charitable giving, has dedicated herself to civil rights causes. She’s an advocate for full transgender equality, works on climate change issues, and volunteers her time throughout the year to various charitable initiatives.

Learn more about the women leaders who are affecting change within their communities.

Paula Johnson Honored with Social Justice Award

By Ranelle Porter,

By Nicholas Conley | December 14, 2018 | 4 Minute Read

As a young girl in Brooklyn, Paula Johnson always knew that she wanted to be a doctor someday. She had a love for science, a passion for helping others, and a cause—her beloved grandmother. Johnson has described her grandmother as a world-traveling, dancing woman who “loved life,” until suddenly succumbing to depression at age 60—a condition that was diagnosed too late to save her life.

The Cause

In Johnson’s acclaimed TED Talk, “His and Hers…Healthcare,” she explains that even though women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression, they are misdiagnosed 30–50 percent of the time. The reason for this comes down to implicit gender biases in medicine and research, which leads to the lack of quality healthcare for women. As Johnson famously told audiences, “It’s my grandmother’s struggles that have really led me on a lifelong quest.” Because of her grandmother, she had dedicated her life to ensuring that women receive the healthcare they deserve and to the well-being and advancement of women.

Johnson’s TED Talk has earned over 1,133,000 views, and is now recommended as one of the 10 Talks by Women That Everyone Should Watch.

Johnson has been a lifelong pioneer, advocate, scientist, and changemaker in the field of women’s health.

Because of her education as a cardiologist, she was among the first medical professionals to point out that the textbook “standard” symptoms of a heart attack are usually those experienced by men, whereas women may show entirely different symptoms. This was the basis for Johnson’s research because women’s biological differences from men aren’t always taken into account when diagnosing diseases or prescribing treatment.

“Men and women are different down to the cellular and molecular levels,” said Johnson in her TED Talk. “From our brains to our hearts, our lungs, our joints. And we’ve learned that there are major differences in the ways that women and men experience diseases, but we’re not making the investment in fully understanding the extent of these sex differences. We aren’t talking about what we have learned, and routinely applying it in clinical care. So we have to ask ourselves the question: why leave women’s health to chance?”

Johnson, the Grayce A. Young Family Professor of Medicine in Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School, a professorship named for her mother, and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, founded the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and she’s currently a member of the National Academy of Medicine, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Today she serves as the 14th President of Wellesley College—the first Black woman to occupy that role. In this new academic role, Johnson has worked to create new opportunities for women to achieve their aspirations across all fields.

Why Her Work Matters

Johnson has dedicated her life to the cause of equality. She has called out gender biases in medicine and worked to receive funding for women’s health sciences.

Furthermore, she’s sought to create change at the ground level. When people ask how they can help, she gives a straightforward answer: “As a woman, you have to ask your doctor, and the doctors who are caring for those you love: is this disease or treatment different in women? Now, this is a profound question, because the answer is likely yes, but your doctor may not know the answer, at least not yet. But if you ask the question, your doctor will very likely go looking for the answer. And this is so important, not only for ourselves, but for all of those whom we love.”

Most recently, Johnson co-chaired the first evidence-based study on sexual harassment in academia, specifically in STEM fields, under the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. This ground-breaking study not only describes the extent of the problem but recommends strategies to prevent sexual harassment and to change climate and culture in organizations.

Celebrating Her Social Justice Achievements

Eastern Bank’s Celebration of Social Justice is now in its 30th year of honoring local individuals and nonprofits who have achieved outstanding success in addressing social justice issues.  In support of its 2018 Targeted Grant category of Advancing Women, Paula Johnson—physician-scientist, innovator, and educator—is this year’s award recipient.

Please join us in congratulating Johnson on this honor and for advancing, promoting, and defending women’s education, health, and well-being.

What Women Running for Congress Can Learn About Campaigning for the People

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | October 18, 2018 | 3 Minute Read

The year 1992 is often referred to as the “Year of the Woman,” in which a record number of women were elected to Congress. All signs point to 2018 being a second “Year of the Woman,” as the number of women running for Congress has continued to grow, and include candidates from all different backgrounds.

While many talk about their hopes for a “Blue Wave” of Democrats taking back Congress, we’re simultaneously seeing what might be called a “Wave of Women.” Across the country, more and more women have started to campaign and win their primary races. Most notably, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in New York, who beat out a ten-term incumbent.

And of course, here in Massachusetts, out of the 18 female candidates for U.S. Congress and Statewide Elected Executive seats, 11 won their primaries. This included the stunning success of Ayanna Pressley who also beat a ten-term incumbent in the race for the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District.

Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, however, Pressley is no untested newcomer to politics. Among her many other accomplishments, such as becoming the first Black woman elected to the Boston City Council, she was also one of the founding board members of Emerge Massachusetts. An organization that is focused on getting more Democratic women in Massachusetts politics.

Emerge Massachusetts is one of a growing number of state affiliates of Emerge America, a full-spectrum, political incubation organization that exists to cultivate, nurture, and support Democratic women running for any political office—from Town Clerk and City Council to United States Senator.

Emerge Massachusetts states three pillars for their program; they aim to:

  • “Recruit…Democratic women who should run for office and get them into our training programs,”
  • “Train…Democratic women with the tools they need to run and win, and”
  • Connect…Provide a powerful network of alumnae, elected officials, and gatekeepers who can open doors.”

Emerge Massachusetts offers boot camps for Democratic women who are actively campaigning to run for public office during this election cycle. These are shorter, intensive trainings were developed to give women “the skills they need to turbocharge their campaigns.” They also offer a newly piloted “Campaign Staff Training” program, designed to train women who want to work in behind the scenes roles to support the campaigns of others. This includes training in messaging, fieldwork, fundraising, the role of campaign staff, and what it takes to win.

And finally, the signature program of Emerge Massachusetts is an “…in-depth, six-month, 70-hour training program that inspires candidates to run and gives them the tools to win.” Once accepted into the program, these Democratic women meet once a month in where they receive comprehensive training from, “… a premiere team of campaign consultants, advisors, and staff from all over the country.” During this training, they learn everything a woman in politics needs in order to run a successful campaign. This includes curriculum focused on public speaking and communication, networking, ethical leadership, labor and endorsements, campaign strategy, and more.

Since the inception of the “Emerge America” program in 2002, they have trained more than 4,000 women to run for office, with 475 alumnae currently serving in office across the United States. Including, right here, where we’re seeing a growing number of women in Massachusetts politics.

But even if you’re not ready to be one of the many women running for Congress, it’s easy to get involved. Emerge Massachusetts offers fellowships for women to gain experience organizing and training, as well as internships for younger women finding their path to service.

Get involved in helping to change the face of politics with Emerge Massachusetts!