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Betty Taymor and Elizabeth Sherman, two key figures in the creation of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy
October 28, 2015

Ann Bookman looking ahead as Center for Women in Politics celebrates 20th anniversary


  • Boston

Anniversaries are an opportunity to appraise the past and look hopefully to the future, and Ann Bookman is doing both this week.

Bookman is director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy (CWPPP), based in UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. The center will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Thursday with an event at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

“The center has been doing wonderful work for 20 years, but I’m not sure it’s had the visibility it deserves,” said Bookman, who took over as director in 2013. “That’s part of my task, to increase the visibility.”

The center combines top graduate-level educational programs with policy-relevant research on critical issues, and offers resources and training to women interested in “public leadership,” which is defined as serving in elected or appointed office, or working in the nonprofit sector.

This fall, CWPPP released Profiles in Leadership: Women of Color Elected to Political Office in Massachusetts, a first-of-its-kind guide produced in collaboration with the Women’s Pipeline for Change. The guide profiles the 94 women of color elected in the commonwealth since 1971.

“As we documented in the publication, we are so woefully behind in anything representing equal representation,” Bookman said. “We’re 51 percent of the population and we’re nowhere near 51 percent in various governing bodies.”

In fact, about a quarter of all seats in the Massachusetts Legislature are held by women. The numbers are even more dismal in Washington, where the U.S. Congress is 18 percent female.

One goal of the publication was to lend context to this widespread problem; another was to encourage the next generation of civically minded women by demonstrating that success is possible.

“We’re hoping to use the guide as a catalyst and organizing tool to encourage more women of color to run,” Bookman said. “That’s one of the things the center is about—trying to train women for leadership positions both in the public sector and in the nonprofit sector.”

Beyond training and research, the center is also known for its well-regarded graduate education. Betty Taymor created the first graduate certificate program in Women in Politics and Public Policy in 1968 at Simmons College. The program later moved to Boston College, then to UMass Boston. The center was founded by Elizabeth Sherman two years later, with support from the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators.

This year CWPPP has added a new Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy track to the school’s Master of Public Administration program, which will allow students in the certificate program to earn a master’s degree in one extra year.

“We hope these programs will really give women the tools they need to be the leaders we know they can be,” Bookman said.

The 20th anniversary event is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Vicki Kennedy and WGBH anchor Callie Crossley are among the guests who will help Bookman mark the milestone. Taymor will be honored with a lifetime achievement award, and a fellowship will be created in her name as part of CWPPP’s new Program for Distinguished Public Service Leaders. Click here for more details.