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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, Springfield
Berkshire Regional Commission Liaison
Tahirah is an attorney licensed to practice in Massachusetts state and federal courts and in the Northern District of New York. Tahirah was appointed to the Commission by the MA Caucus of Women Legislators. She currently heads the Law Office of Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, providing full legal representation to clients in family law matters including counseling, mediations, negotiations, and all stages of litigation. She regularly develops and chairs continuing education courses for legal professionals and members of the non-legal community and serves on boards of non-profit organizations. Tahirah was a White House invitee in December 2015 and attended a ceremony entitled, Celebrating and Protecting America's Tradition of Religious Pluralism. She is legal counsel for two religious congregations. As an African American Muslim woman, Tahirah is a public speaker on aspects of family law, women's issues, civic engagement, interfaith solidarity, children's issues, race and religion. She is a graduate of Elms College in Chicopee and Western New England College School of Law in Springfield. She is married and has seven children.
Rebecca Bact, Auburndale
Program and Planning Committee Vice Chair
Upper Middlesex Commission Co-Liaison
In November 2017, Rebecca was appointed to the Commission by the Governor. Rebecca currently serves as Senior Associate of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Rebecca represents clients in litigation matters, concentrating on intellectual property and appellate matters. Rebecca is committed to her pro bono practice, which focuses on GLBT rights and immigration matters. Rebecca also serves as a member of WilmerHale’s Diversity Committee. Before beginning at WilmerHale, Law Clerk for the Honorable Norman H. Stahl of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Prior to law school, Rebecca worked as an investigator for the Office of the Bar Counsel of the Board of Bar Overseers of the Supreme Judicial Court. Rebecca earned a BA in English Language and Literature and French Studies from Smith College and her JD from Northwestern University School of Law.
Penny Blaisdell, Marblehead
Essex Regional Commission Liaison
Penny was appointed to the Commission by MA Speaker of the House, Robert A. DeLeo, in 2014. She leads the Commission's Speakers Bureau. She has had an extensive career serving as a Healthcare Advocate in her practice, HealthCareSOS, as well as serving as a patient advocate for the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and the American Association of Cancer Research. She also serves as a Consumer Reviewer/Consultant for the US Department of Defense (DOD), Breast Cancer Research Program. Her 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. Because of the dramatically rising drug abuse issues in Massachusetts, she has become an advocate for explicit pain care management by hospitals and doctors to ensure patients understand the challenges and potential addiction of using opioid medications. She is a member of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC) and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (APHA). Prior to her healthcare career, she held many executive Marketing, Public Relations and Corporate Communication positions in the high technology and higher education industry.
Ruth Bramson, Boston
Program and Planning Committee Secretary
Ruth has over 30 years of experience leading diverse teams and executing strategic and business development plans across sectors. She joined the Commission in 2017, having been appointed by the Governor. Ruth’s lifetime achievement has been advancing leadership opportunities for women includes advocacy for gender equity across corporate, government and non-profit sectors. Ruth served as the first CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, a position she held for over 5 years. Prior to that, Ruth was Senior Vice President of Human Resources for National Grid and Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Shaw’s Supermarkets/Star Markets, where she was also the first woman senior executive and Board member. Ruth continued to break ground with the development of a progressive “Women at Work” campaign, significantly increasing the number of women in managerial roles, and the establishment of Suited for Success, a nonprofit that supports economically disadvantaged women towards self-sufficiency, which Ruth led for six years. Appointed as the first Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Diversity Officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the Romney Administration, Ruth received the Shared Services Leader of the Year for North America Award for innovations in state government. In 2013, Ruth was one of 16 women appointed to Mayor Menino’s Women’s Workforce Council, which is working to help the women of Boston achieve pay equity. Ruth previously served as a commissioner at the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women from 2006-2009.
Denella Clark, Hyde Park
MCSW Vice Chair
Budget and Personnel Committee Secretary
Eastern Regional Commission Liaison
Denella has over 25 years of experience in management, spanning academic medicine, health and human services, and education organizations. She was appointed to the Commission by the Governor. For the past 18 years, she has held leadership positions in the areas of management, philanthropy, communications, strategic planning, and marketing. She is viewed as a highly motivated leader, deeply committed to creating quality fundraising initiatives, and executing campaign strategies that yield results and advance mission. Throughout the course of her career, she has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, led $25MM capital campaign for Dimock, served on leadership team for $100MM campaign at Joslin Diabetes Center, and has established an endowment at Dimock. Denella is a creative thinker known for her keen ability to win community support, increase funding base, and build teams. An effective manager and thoughtful leader of high-performing teams, she approaches her work as a coach and collaborator: “In coaching and motivating teams, my goal is to inspire and to convey a shared sense of purpose. A team has to believe that we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves." She is an active volunteer currently serving on the Board of Directors of METCO, Chairwoman of Membership, NAACP New England Area Conference.
Jean Cotter Fox, Freetown
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 Vice Chair
Hampshire-Franklin Regional Commission Liaison
In October 2017, Liz Friedman was appointed to the Commission by Speaker Robert DeLeo. Liz is a national leader on perinatal mental health and the former Program Director and founder of the Postpartum Support Initiative of MotherWoman, where she developed innovative models to ensure system change for families struggling with emotional challenges during and after pregnancy. Liz is a founder of the National Coalition for Perinatal Mental Health, now part of 2020 Mom Project, which successfully ensured inclusion of screening and treatment for maternal mental depression in the 21st Century Cures Act. Liz is co-author on research that examines the barriers to care for mothers suffering from postpartum depression and is co-investigator on the efficacy of support groups as primary forms of mental health treatment for mothers. The Community-based Perinatal Support Model, which Liz both developed and led implementation, received the Innovation Award from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs in 2016. She was chairwoman of the state-wide coalition and lead advocate for the MA Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which was signed into law by Governor Baker in 2017. She is founder of GPS Group Peer Support, whose innovative approach to addressing mental health issues brings much needed resources to communities, with special focus on parenting, first generation college students and international mental health.
Becca Glenn, Waltham
Legislative and Public Policy Committee Chair
Becca Glenn was appointed to the Commission in 2015 by the MA Caucus of Women Legislators. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Boston College and a master's degree in women's studies from Loyola University Chicago. Becca started her career as a social service provider, interning at a women’s resource center and working as a domestic violence counselor. After two years volunteering as the president of her local chapter of the National Organization for Women, she decided to pursue community organizing and advocacy professionally. For the past decade, she has worked to promote social justice and environmental protection initiatives with groups like the Sierra Club, Oceana, and the American Civil Liberties Union. She has also consulted on numerous federal, state, and local electoral campaigns. Becca is currently the Recruitment and Advocacy Manager for Mass Alliance. She lives in Waltham.
Allison Goldberg, Marblehead
Budget and Personnel Committee Vice Chair
In October 2017, Allison Goldberg was appointed to the Commission by the Governor. Allison started off her career as an Account Executive for the NPD Group, where she managed accounts of restaurants and analyzed product trends. Allison continued on with this work when she joined O’Connell, Norton and Partners, as the Director of Strategic Marketing. Allison has also served as Director of Clients Services at Coolsavings, Inc. Currently, Allison is the owner of New England Cranberry Co., which is a privately held, specialty food company that encompasses many brands. Allison oversees marketing and development for three individual specialty brands. Allison earned a BS from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and an MA in International Marketing from ESSEC-IMHI in France. Allison is a visiting lecturer at both Boston University and Boston College, in their School of Hospitality Administration and Carroll School of Management respectively. Allison is also on the Board of Directors for Cohen Hillel Academy, in addition to serving as a member on their Marketing and Gala Committees. Allison serves on Cornell University’s Hotel School Alumni Association and on the board of Epstein Hillel School in Marblehead.
Audrey Hall, Framingham
Along with a robust career in Mass Communications, Audrey has served as an advocate for public education, an elected official, and a community volunteer. Senate President Karen E. Spilka appointed Audrey to the Commission in 2018. Audrey was President of the Alliance for Educational Equity advocating for changes in the Chapter 70 funding formula. She engaged parents to rally and testify at the State House with Stand for Children. As a three-term President of Framingham’s Town-Wide Parent Teacher Organization (TWPTO) she led the TWPTO to become a strong umbrella organization for 13 PTOs, raising the voices of parents and students. She developed a proposal for full day kindergarten which was adopted by the school committee, making it available to all students. Audrey was elected to Town Meeting and served for 19 years, 12 as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee which analyzed the annual municipal budget and all financial articles and made voting recommendations to town meeting. She was appointed by the Board of Selectmen, Superintendent of Schools and Town Manager to serve on search committees and special task forces. After Framingham adopted a city charter in 2017, Audrey served as Director of Communications for the Committee to Elect Yvonne Spicer. Spicer was elected in November, 2017 as Framingham’s inaugural Mayor, the first African American woman popularly elected Mayor in Massachusetts. Many community leaders and elected officials appear as guests on The Audrey Hall Show which she has Produced and Hosted for 15 years. The hour-long talk show airs on RCN, Comcast and Verizon. Audrey developed a passion for media while earning a B.A. degree in Mass Communications from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She worked as a news reporter and journalist in TV and Radio before entering the Advertising Agency business in New York City. It led her to a groundbreaking career in cable advertising, which grew into media management roles in marketing, advertising and public relations. Audrey specialized in developing customer acquisition and retention marketing campaigns which delivered on all financial goals. She became the first woman hired as General Manager for Framingham Cablevision, Regional General Manager for Cablevision of MA and General Manager of the NPR affiliate WICN Public Radio. Audrey looks forward to breaking ground for all women as a Commissioner on the MCSW.
Nina Kimball, Plymouth
Cape Cod & Islands and Plymouth County Regional Commissions Liaison
Nina was appointed to the Commission by Senate President Stan Rosenberg in December 2016. She 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 on employment matters. Nina’s practice addresses many issues that affect women in the workplace including taking on pregnancy discrimination, wage discrimination and glass ceiling issues; advising women negotiating compensation packages or facing gender harassment or sexual harassment at work; and advising employers and employees about family and medical leave issues. As a member of the Women’s Bar Association, Nina co-chaired its Pay Equity Task Force and helped draft a comprehensive bill to amend the state’s Equal Pay Act that was passed into law in 2016. Nina was named a Top Women of Law for 2012 by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. She has also been named Massachusetts Super Lawyer since 2006 and New England Super Lawyer since 2008.
Sarah La Cour, Amherst
Budget and Personnel Committee Chair
Sarah is a landscape designer and planner with over 25 years of experience in landscape architecture, regional planning and historic preservation. She was appointed to the Commission by Senate President Stan Rosenberg in 2016. Sarah has been the Executive Director of the Amherst Business Improvement District since 2013 and was previously Director of Conservation and Planning at W.D. Cowls, Inc. Land Company and a Partner at Conservation Works LLC. She is a full member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. In addition to her professional work, Sarah has served on the Board of Directors of several not-for-profit organizations including the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, the STAR Program at The Hood Center for Children at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. She is an Emeritus Board Member at Chesterwood Museum, a historic site owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Sarah has also served on the Town of Amherst Historical Commission and has been an Amherst Town Meeting member since 2012.
Melissa Pride-Fahs, Shrewsbury
Melissa was appointed to the Commission by the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators in 2018. A native of Concord, NH, she earned her B.A. in English/Journalism from the University of New Hampshire. With nearly two decades of marketing and public relations experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, Melissa started Emerge Marketing Inc. in 2014, specializing in engagement and acquisition strategies, branding, partnerships and event management. She previously worked for national and international organizations such the United States Tennis Association, Destination Weddings Travel Group and Ovations for the Cure, partnering with notable brands including Hard Rock All-Inclusive Resorts, David's Bridal, Riu Hotels & Resorts, Wedding Wire, The Human Rights Campaign, Men's Wearhouse, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and The Tennis Channel. In addition to her professional work, Melissa is actively involved in her community, as well as statewide. She was appointed by the Baker/Polito Administration to Commonwealth Corporation's Board of Directors and is also the First Vice Chairperson for the Board of Directors of Shrewsbury Youth & Family Services. Additionally Melissa serves as the Secretary of the Hannah Kane Charitable Foundation, has been an elected Shrewsbury Town Meeting Member since 2015 and is the Communications Director for State Representative Hannah Kane. In 2015, she received the Worcester Business Journal's "40 Under Forty" Award.
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.
Sara Schnorr, Holliston
Legislative and Public Policy Committee Secretary
Sara was appointed to the Commission by the Governor in April 2016. She is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. She received her B.A. (cum laude) in German Literature and Language from Harvard in 1970 and studied as a Fulbright Fellow in Munich in 1970-71. Sara earned a M.A.T. at Wesleyan University in 1972 and went on to teach high school German and English in Kingston, MA and North Haven, CT. She received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law i1979 where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Virginia Journal of International Law, winning the Hardy Cross Dillard Award for her Student Note “Trust-Busting with a German Accent: The Control of Merger and Acquisition Activity Under Increasingly Aggressive West German Law,” 19 Virginia Journal of International Law 595 (1979). In 1979 the Sara joined Boston law firm Palmer & Dodge (now known as Locke Lord LLP) and became partner in 1987. She currently is Of Counsel. Sara’s practice focuses on complex commercial real estate development, acquisition, leasing, financing and permitting, with specialties in the biotech, telecommunications, and affordable housing and community development industries. She is a former member of the firm’s hiring committee, and a current member of the Boston Office’s diversity, pro bono, and legal opinion review committees. In 2009 she transitioned as a transgender full time while a partner in her law firm. Since 2008, Sara has been a peer-rated “Massachusetts Super Lawyer” and in 2012 was identified as one of the top women lawyers in Massachusetts. She has served 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.
Wendy Silver, Needham
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
Program and Planning Committee Chair
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 is Boston native currently living in Rhode Island. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Social Work from Bridgewater State University and Masters in Social Work from Wheelock College. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for over ten years, servicing individuals and families impacted by trauma; homelessness, intimate partner violence and sexual violence, and substance misuse.
Sasha, who identifies as a Queer, Afro-Latinx, has been dedicated to raising awareness of the issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community through her involvement as a Board Member of the MA Commission on LGBTQ+ Youth 2017-2018, Greater Boston PFLAG, SpeakOUT, and BrAGLY (Brockton Alliance on LGBTQ+ Youth) an organization of the AGLY Network. She is a co-founder of Jackson’s CLASS Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides services including homelessness prevention education, LGBTQ+ resources and trainings in Southeastern, Massachusetts.
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