MCSW is composed of women from diverse backgrounds, representing counties and municipalities from across the state. Their commitment to improving the status of women in society is evident within their professional endeavors, and their contributions to MCSW stand true to its underlying mission. Their biographies highlighting some of their notable work within and outside of MCSW are linked below.
All Commissioners are appointed by one of the four appointing authorities: Five Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, four by the Senate President, four by Speaker of the House, and six by the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. The Commissioners are sworn in by the Secretary of State or another authorized designee and serve for up-to 3 terms (renewable).
Interested in becoming appointed as a Commissioner? Contact one of the appointing authorities to find out their respective policies and timelines for appointments. Prospective Commissioners may also contact Executive Director, Jill Ashton (email@example.com), for additional information regarding the nomination process and expected responsibilities.
As a Commission, we are empowered to:
- Study, review and report on the status of women in the Commonwealth
- Advise executive and legislative bodies on the effect of proposed legislation on women
- Inform leaders of business, education, health care, state and local governments and the communications media of issues pertaining to women
- Provide referrals and serve as a resource of information on issues pertaining to women
- Identify and recommend qualified women for positions at all levels of government
- Promote and facilitate collaboration among local women's commissions and among women’s organizations in the state
- Serve as a liaison between government and private interest groups concerned with issues affecting women
- Assess programs and practices in all state agencies as they affect women
Denella Clark, Hyde Park
Eastern Regional Commission Liaison
Hyde Park resident and President of Boston Arts Academy Foundation, has been elected as MCSW Chair. Chairwoman Clark was first appointed to the Commission in 2015 and reappointed in 2018 by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. Chairwoman Clark was elected to Chair by her fellow Commissioners, and is the first woman of color to lead the Commission. Past roles include serving as Vice Chair and Treasurer. A nonprofit executive, mother, and philanthropist Chairwoman Clark is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. Chairwoman Clark states, “As the first Black woman to chair the Commission, one of my goals is to amplify legislation that will directly benefit and improve the lives of women of color.”
Rebecca Bact, Auburndale
MCSW Vice Chair
Upper Middlesex Commission Co-Liaison
Rebecca Bact, Newton resident and attorney, has been elected as MCSW Vice Chair. Bact was appointed to the Commission in 2017 by Governor Charlie Baker. From 2018-2020, Rebecca served as Secretary of MCSW and Vice Chair of the Program and Planning Committee. Rebecca is committed to advancing the interests of all women, girls, and non-binary people, and is particularly committed to hearing from and including the voices of communities of color, immigrant communities, and the LGBTQ community as to their particular needs. Outside of the Commission, Rebecca works as a lawyer, including at the firms of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and Beck Reed Riden LLP, where she represented clients in litigation, concentrating on intellectual property and appellate matters. She is also dedicated to her pro bono practice, which has focused on LGBTQ and immigrant rights.
Marlene Sallo, Marina Bay
Marlene Sallo, J.D., is the Executive Director of Disability Law Center in Boston. Marlene has held several roles throughout her career where she has continuously advocated for human and civil rights. Previously, she served as Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel for the U.S. Dept. of Justice Community Relations Service. Appointed by President Obama, Marlene also served as the Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Marlene has dedicated her career to protecting the rights of disenfranchised and vulnerable children through her work as a case manager, special education teacher, and child welfare attorney. Marlene holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Manhattanville College and her J.D. from Florida State University College of Law. In addition to serving on many boards throughout Boston and beyond, Governor Charlie Baker appointed Marlene to serve on the Restrictive Housing Oversight Committee and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. Marlene also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Boys & Girls Club of Boston.
Sara Schnorr, Holliston
Budget and Personnel Committee Vice Chair
Sara Schnorr, Holliston resident and Of Counsel in the Boston office of Locke Lord LLP, has been re-elected as MCSW Treasurer. Schnorr was re-appointed to the MCSW in 2018 by Governor Charlie Baker. As a former partner and now Of Counsel at Locke Lord LLP, her more than 40 years of practicing law have focused on complex commercial real estate development, acquisition, leasing, financing and permitting, with specialties in the biotech, telecommunications, and affordable housing and community development industries. In addition, she has served as a former chair of the Town Of Wellesley’s Advisory (Finance) Committee, and as a member of the Founders’ Circle of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, SpeakOUT Boston, the American Bar Association, and the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association.
Penny Blaisdell, Marblehead
Essex County Commission Co-Liaison
Commissioner Penny Blaisdell was appointed to the Commission by Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo in 2014. Penny is currently serving as Secretary of the Program & Planning Committee, bringing events, public hearings and outreach to women and girls across the Commonwealth; she is also a past Secretary of the MCSW. Commissioner Blaisdell has had an extensive career as a healthcare advocate in her practice HealthCareSOS, while also serving as a patient advocate for the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, The DFCI Adult Patient & Family Advisory Council, and The Massachusetts Hospital Clinical Advisory Council. Penny's goal is to empower patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare choices, and to provide guidance and resources to those who have encountered healthcare challenges. With the dramatically rising drug abuse issues in Massachusetts, she has become an advocate for explicit pain care management by hospitals and doctors, helping ensure that patients understand the challenges and potential addiction of using opioid medications. Prior to her healthcare career, Penny was a C-suite marketing, public relations and corporate communication executive in high tech and higher education. Commissioner Blaisdell lives in Marblehead.
Ruth Bramson, Boston
Program and Planning Committee Clerk
COVID-19 Action Committee Co Chair
Ruth Bramson has returned to the Commission in 2019, appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, having served previously during the Romney administration. Her career has been dedicated to advancing opportunities for all women and girls and advocating for gender equity and against domestic violence. Appointed as the Commonwealth's Undersecretary of Administration and Finance, Ms. Bramson spearheaded initiatives in diversity and STEM education. She served as the first CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA, working with 45,000 girls to develop their leadership skills and self confidence. She holds a B.S. from Columbia University and a M.S. from Boston University's School of Education. I serve as co chair of COVID-19 Action Committee and on the Program and Planning Committee.
Jean Cotter Fox, Freetown
Program and Planning Committee Chair
Jean was appointed to the Commission by MA Speaker of the House, Robert A. DeLeo, in 2017. Jean currently serves as the manager of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s South Coast Rail project, ushering the project through environmental review and into design and construction. Jean is active in her hometown of Freetown as well as the South Coast. A former Freetown Selectman, Jean has participated on numerous educational boards and committees in the South Coast and was a founding board member of the Alma del Mar Charter School and a SMILES mentor for years. She is Chair of the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School Committee and Chair of the Global Learning Charter Public School Board of Trustees. Prior to joining MassDOT, Jean was the Youth Council Director and LiteracyWorks Entrepreneur at the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board. Jean also served on the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) Commission, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the SRTA Advisory Board. She has been active in bringing much-needed attention to the transportation needs of the region, working on a Transit Development Plan in New Bedford as well as advocating for reliable transportation for women and students to get to and from work, jobs, education, healthcare, and childcare. She was named a Woman of Distinction by the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts in 2013, and received the Lifelong Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees in 2010.
Marianne Fleckner, Westford
Upper Middlesex Commission Co-Liaison
Marianne is currently the Director of Human Resources for the Town of Acton, since 2008. Before joining Acton, Marianne worked for the Commonwealth for over 20 years in various administrative capacities for 11 State Agencies, specializing in mergers from a Human Resources standpoint. She worked directly for 5 different Governors serving in such capacities as Chief Secretary and Deputy Commissioner. She appointed to the Commission by the Caucus of Women Legislators. Previous to joining the Commonwealth, Marianne worked in private industry. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Westfield State University and possesses a graduate-level Human Resources Certificate from Bentley University. Marianne is involved with a number of organizations such as the Domestic Violence Services Network, the Center for Hope and Healing, Acton/Boxborough Rotary, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, the Westford J.V. Fletcher Library and the League of Women Voters. Marianne also volunteers her time to the family’s bagel business, Bagel Alley, and at various Farmer’s Markets.
Liz Friedman, Northhampton
Legislative and Public Policy Committee Chair
Hampshire-Franklin Regional Commission Liaison
Liz Friedman MFA has served as a Commissioner since 2017, appointed by Speaker Robert DeLeo because of her ongoing commitment to perinatal women’s health and her effective advocacy on behalf of the MA Pregnant Workers Fairness amongst other critical bills. Commissioner Friedman currently serves as the Legislative Chair of the Commission and brings more than 30 years of expertise in advocacy including serving on the MA PPD Commission since its inception in 2011 and launching a national coalition for perinatal mental health. She is currently on the Advisory Boards of MA PPD Fund and It Takes A Village and is an associate at Effie’s Grace, focused on maternal-child health policy. She Co-founded MotherWoman, a reproductive justice organization in Western MA and is currently Co-Founder and Co-President, with Annette Cycon, of GPS Group Peer Support, a national organization leading communities, non-profits and state-entities in implementation of trauma-responsive and culturally co-created support groups across a spectrum of lived experiences including parenthood, incarceration, addiction/recovery, and those targeted by immigration discrimination. Currently she is launching the COVID-19 Emergency Support Program across the U.S. and internationally. In 2010, she received the Ted Women’s Award for her outstanding work on behalf of mothers and was highlighted in two award-winning documentaries on perinatal mental health, "Dark Side of the Full Moon” (2016) and “Not Carol” (2019). Commissioner Friedman has never been more excited than in her work on the MCSW. She says, “ We have the opportunity to unite ALL women in the Commonwealth towards a collective voice as we share our experiences and partner with legislators in advocating for equity for each one of us. Now is the time. Come join us!”
Allison Goldberg, Marblehead
Essex County Regional Commission Co-Liaison
Allison Goldberg was appointed to the Commission by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in 2018. Allison currently serves as Chair of the Marketing & Communications Committee, formed in 2020 to develop the voice of the Commission as it works to bring programs and outreach to women and girls across The Commonwealth. Past roles include serving on the Legislative, Budget & Personnel, and Program & Planning Committees. A food and beverage entrepreneur, Commissioner Goldberg is passionate about educating women & girls about money: how to save, how to plan and how to journey along a path to self-reliance and independence. Commissioner Goldberg lives in Marblehead.
Audrey Hall, Framingham
Budget and Personnel Committee Chair
COVID-19 Action Committee Chair
MetroWest Regional Commission Liaison
Audrey Hall, Framingham resident, TV Talk Show Producer and Host and Strategic Communications Consultant, has been elected as chair of the Budget and Personnel Committee for the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW). She is also the Chair of the MCSW COVID-19 Action Committee and past Vice-Chair of the Legislative Committee. Hall was appointed to the MCSW in 2018 by Senate President Karen E. Spilka. She is the Clerk of the Framingham Council on Aging and is a member of the Board of Directors of AFTV. A business executive with 30 years of experience in public and private sector Executive Management in Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, and Operations, Hall also served as a public education advocate for 14 years, and as an elected town meeting member for 19 years - 12 as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. She is a political activist with an unrelenting passion for justice, equal opportunity, and integrity in government.
Patricia Hohl, Framingham
Legislative and Public Policy Committee Clerk
Patricia was appointed to the Commission by Senate President Karen Spilka in November 2019. She is the Director at Voices Against Violence in Framingham where the mission is to save lives, rebuild lives, and secure safer futures for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Prior to taking the helm at Voices, Patricia worked at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center as a national training and technical assistance provider implementing Domestic Violence High Risk Teams across the country as part of the Office on Violence Against Women / Dept. of Justice Demonstration Initiative and Technical Assistance grants. Patricia is an attorney with over two decades of nonprofit management experience. She holds a B.S. in Business from UMASS Lowell, a M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Boston University, a graduate certificate in Gender Leadership and Public Policy from UMASS Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy & Global Studies, and a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School. Until her appointment, Patricia had been a Commissioner on the MetroWest Commission on the Status of Women since its inception in 2015, where she served at different times as Chair and Legislative Director. She volunteers as a member of the Jane Doe Inc. Policy Advisory Committee and is active in the League of Women Voters of Framingham.
Nina Kimball, Plymouth
Cape Cod & Islands and Plymouth County Regional Commissions Liaison
Nina Joan Kimball was appointed to the Commission by Senate President Stan Rosenberg in December 2016. She served as Chair of the Commission from July 2018 to June 2020. Nina is a founding partner in Kimball Brousseau LLP, a boutique employment law firm in Boston where she advises individuals, executives, non-profit organizations, and small businesses. Nina’s practice addresses many issues that affect women in the workplace including tackling pregnancy discrimination, wage discrimination, and glass ceiling issues; advising women negotiate job offers and compensation or facing gender discrimination or sexual harassment at work; supporting LGBTQ individuals and battling gender stereotypes; advising employers and employees on family and medical leave issues. As Co-Chair of the Women’s Bar Association Pay-Equity Task Force, Nina helped draft a comprehensive bill to amend the state’s Equal Pay Act that was passed into law in 2016. Nina is a Member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Women in Work at UMass Lowell. She received her B.A. from Yale College and her J.D. from George Washington University, where she was Editor in Chief of The George Washington Law Review. She clerked for Chief Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who in private practice had been an attorney for the NAACP fighting systemic race discrimination and argued one of the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation cases. Judge Robinson served as an inspiration to Nina to devote her career to fighting discrimination in many forms.
Leslie-Ann McGee, Kingston
Program and Planning Committee Vice Chair
Leslie-Ann McGee is the Assistant Director of the Center for Marine Robotics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and is responsible for program management of a number of WHOI initiatives. Leslie-Ann is responsible for developing strategic vision and leadership, managing external relations and partnerships and retaining primary responsibility for organizational and program management of CMR. She provides leadership on customer relationship management for industrial clients and government sponsors and supports CMR’s acceleration of a robust robotics program at WHOI. Ms. McGee is also the Program Manager for the Cape Cod Blue Economy Project in association with the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Cod Blue Economy Foundation. She is an expert in ocean and coastal issues in both the domestic and international arena and has a diverse background working with and for state, regional, national, business and environmental entities globally. She also maintains a consulting practice through her firm, Full Sail Consulting based in Kingston, MA. Ms. McGee served as the Director of Coastal Zone Management for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In addition, McGee was the Director of Programs for the World Ocean Council, Director of Ocean and Coastal Solutions at Battelle Memorial Institute and held state and federal positions with NOAA, the New England Fishery Management Council and the MA Department of Fish and Game. Ms. McGee is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. She conducted her graduate research on Bluefin Tuna at the New England Aquarium. Leslie-Ann lives in Kingston, MA with her husband, Dan Shropshire, and their two children, Coyle and Holden. And, one very large Bernese Mountain Dog, Tanner.
Maria Puppolo, Springfield
Hampden Regional Commission Liaison
Maria currently heads the Law Office of Maria T. Puppolo, representing clients in probate, mental health, alcohol and drug-related civil commitment proceedings and debt collection cases. Maria is an Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Springfield Law Department, and also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Springfield College, American International College and Bay Path University, where she teaches criminal justice and business law courses. She was appointed to serve on the Commission by the MA Caucus of Women Legislators. A lifelong resident of Springfield, Maria earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology at Mount Holyoke College, a Juris Doctorate at Western New England University School of Law and a Master of Business Administration from Springfield College. She is a recent graduate of the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact and the Springfield Citizen’s Police Academy. Maria is active in the Springfield community, including as a member of the Hampden County Bar Association’s Education Committee, the Recovery with Justice Advisory Committee at the Springfield District Court, the Professional Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts League of Women Voters, and an Advisory Board member of the YMCA of Western MA.
Shaitia Spruell, Clinton
Legislative and Public Policy Committee Vice Chair
Shaitia Spruell, a proud young mom, has served as a Commissioner since 2019, appointed by the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. She serves as the Secretary for the Legislative & Public Policy Committee. Originally from Springfield, Shaitia lives in Clinton, MA and currently works for the Office of the State Treasurer & Receiver General as the Senior Program Officer primarily overseeing Women's Economic Empowerment Programming and supporting Digital Financial Education Programs. Before joining the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of women, Shaitia served as a regional commissioner on the Hampden County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls for one year. Shaitia is passionate about financial literacy, empowering girls and working moms. Issues that center working mothers and women of color are where she focuses her work. Earning her B.S. from Bay Path University, Shaitia is now enrolled at Fitchburg State University pursuing her MBA in Business Management.
Wendy Silver, Needham
Budget and Personnel Committee Vice Chair
Wendy Silver was appointed to the Commission in 2018 by the MA Caucus of Women Legislators. She is the founder and President of Beyond the Workplace LLC, a boutique HR consulting company specializing in employee relations. Before transitioning into HR, Wendy was an Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. With over 20 years of experience in law and HR, Wendy has worked in a variety of industries including higher education, health care, and hospitality. Her unique combination of legal knowledge and HR operational know-how has made her a successful, valued, and highly trusted advisor at all levels of an organization. Wendy is passionate about inspiring, promoting and creating great places to work and challenges organizations to think outside the box to create workplace cultures that support business growth and employee success. Wendy holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and received her JD from Suffolk University Law School. In addition to her professional work and her work on the Commission, Wendy is a Mentor for the Women Accelerator’s program, a member of the Newton/Needham Chamber of Commerce, and a member the League of Women Voters of Needham. Wendy lives in Needham, MA with her husband and two teenage children.
Phyllis Smith, Franklin
Phyllis was appointed to the Commission by Senate President Karen Spilka in January 2019. She currently serves as a member of the Legislative Committee. A native of Georgia, Phyllis earned an MBA from Simmons University and a B.S. from the University of Georgia. She has more than 20 years of experience in Project Management, Sales and Operations in the Healthcare, Financial Services, and High-Tech Industries. Phyllis lives in Franklin, Massachusetts where she currently serves on the Franklin Democratic Town Committee. She also serves as the Affirmative Action Outreach Officer for the committee. Phyllis has served on various community boards and committees including the Franklin Cultural Council, Agassiz Neighborhood Council, Cambridge Community Television and the MIT Parents Association. Phyllis is also a member of several professional organizations including the National Black MBA Association, The Partnership, Inc., the Project Management Institute, and the Network of Executive Women. Phyllis is a graduate of the Network of Executive Women’s NEW Leadership Academy.
Marydith Tuitt, Boston
MetroWest and Worcester Regional Commissions Liaison
Mary-dith was born on the Island of Montserrat in the British West Indies to Henrietta and Michael Tuitt. In the mid 1970’s Mary and her three brothers came to America to join their parents. She was appointed to the Commission by the MA Caucus of Women Legislators in 2011. She served as Chief of Staff for State Representative Gloria L. Fox, where she worked as Constituent Services Coordinator for a Boston City Councillor, providing support to the under-served communities of Boston, and has worked on various political campaigns. Over the years Mary has always been involved and invested in enriching, enhancing and empowering her Community. She served as a volunteer with Boston Public schools, with various community youth groups, and with her church St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Columbia Road in Dorchester. An alumni of the Boston Public school System she graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1985 and entered the United States Navy, where she served fourteen years as a Navy Aviation Machinists Mate, first on active duty and then in the active & inactive Reserves. Mary started her own business doing Special Events in 1987 her company designs and débuts weddings and events which involved degrees of planning, floral designing, church & hall decorating, procurement and assisting her clients in making their dreams a reality.
Jill Ashton, Clinton
Jill is a leader and activist in the women’s advancement community. Since 2009 she has served as the executive director of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. In the 2015-2016 Massachusetts legislative session, Jill led the coalition of organizations that successful stewarded the passage of the Equal Pay Act, a piece of groundbreaking economic justice legislation that, among other provisions, prevents hiring managers from inquiring about salary history. She continues to work with colleagues inside Massachusetts to ensure full and effective implementation of the law, as well as partners across the nation to support the advancement of similar policies.
Jill is committed to developing talent among young women and men, having mentored more than 150 students through the commission’s robust internship program and beyond. She currently serves as co-president of the National Association of Commissions on Women, with which she has increased peer-to-peer learning opportunities to encourage the success of member commissions. A graduate of the Program for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass-Boston, she now proudly serves as a member of the program’s advisory board.
Sasha Heggie-Jackson is an advocate, mentor, and educator. In addition to her role as Program Director at the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, she serves as the CEO of Jackson’s C.L.A.S.S., Inc., a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts that she Co-founded with her wife, Patricia.
Sasha has devoted over ten years to improving the access of services, as well as the quality of services in underserved communities. Her community-based work focuses on providing support inclusive of: education and advocacy for survivors of violence, LGBTQ+ peer social support, eviction prevention, and trainings for providers. Sasha previously held positions of Board Member on the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ+ Youth, Committee Member of the National Association of Social Workers, and Public Speaker and Trainer for Greater Boston PFLAG and SpeakOUT. With her Masters in Social Work and Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from Wheelock College, Sasha engages in social justice work through a cultural and intersectional lens.
Communications and Events Coordinator
Melanie Soto is a Boston native and a youth worker at heart. During her time as a youth worker from the ages of fourteen to eighteen, she was provided with support by community members to pursue her passions in both writing and higher education. Growing up in the city allowed her opportunities to work with various nonprofit organizations in both her undergraduate and graduate experiences. With the help of those in her community, she graduated Wheelock College with a Bachelors in Social Work and Juvenile Justice and earned a Masters in Social Work at Bridgewater State.
As the Communications and Events Coordinator, Melanie will increase engagement of local policy discussions and action through MCSW’s social media channels with those across the state. She aims to make information accessible to all age groups while also supporting and showcasing advocacy that is happening within our communities that may go unnoticed
Victoria Budson, Wellesley
Linda Cavaioli, Worcester
Chris Chanyasulkit, Brookline
Maureen Curley, Medford
Joanne Fitzgerald McCrea - springing
Elizabeth Hart, Malden
Clare Higgins, Northhampton
Denise Hurst, Springfield
Margot Parrot, Athol - springing