After the 2010 elections, the number of women holding elective office in Massachusetts plummeted to 1998 levels, with women comprising only 24 percent of all officeholders and 20 percent of local elected officials.

The figures for women of color who were officeholders were even starker: They held only 2 percent of elected offices, despite people of color comprising more than 20 percent of the state’s population. Women of color who are current officeholders in Massachusetts are typically the “first and only.” In the state senate, there is one woman of color, Sonia Chang-Diaz. She is the first Latina woman to hold that office. Her seat was previously held by the first African-American woman to serve in the chamber. The House of Representatives fares better for women of color, but not by much, boasting just three: Gloria Fox, Linda Dorcena Forry, and Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, respectively an African American, a Haitian American, and a Latina.

As mayor of Fitchburg, Lisa Wong is the first woman of color popularly elected as a mayor in the entire state and the only Asian-American woman to serve in that position. For more than 100 years, the Boston City Council did not have a member who was a woman of color, until 2010, when Ayanna Pressley, who is African American, took her at-large seat. Boston has been majority-minority since 2000.

The 2010 Census shows dramatic increases in the state’s minority population, presenting a unique opportunity to increase the number of women of color in political leadership. A new initiative seeks to capitalize on that opportunity.


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