Big omission in commentary on women in government

Completely ignores women in Mass. Senate, including President Spilka

IT IS INCREDULOUS that an opinion piece about the 2022 election and role of women in Massachusetts government completely ignores the women of the Massachusetts Senate. The role of women in the Senate has never been stronger. The majority leader, president emeritus, and vice chair of the ways and means committee are women. But, most importantly, the leader of the Massachusetts Senate for nearly the last five years—Senate President Karen E. Spilka—is a woman.

Under  Spilka’s leadership, the Senate passed comprehensive first-in-the-nation behavioral health and climate change bills, oversaw significant increases in funding for K-12 early education, implemented a bill ensuring all children get healthy meals at school, and worked through criminal justice and police reforms, just to name a few. When we talk about women’s civil rights, it was the Senate that initiated change in the law to make a woman’s reproductive rights legal in Massachusetts. Most of these initiatives have become law. All under the leadership of Spilka.

Most recently, women in the Senate were the initial sponsors of the language to protect providers delivering reproductive and abortion care, increase access to contraception, and ensure women remain in control of late-term pregnancy care. The Senate passed that language by bi-partisan unanimous vote.

For Spilka, leadership of the Senate is the capstone on a long and fruitful political career. Spilka was the force behind the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave and pay equity bills, now law. She also chaired the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee as Massachusetts came out of the 2008 economic downturn, producing a bill—also now law—that streamlined how businesses access state services to help businesses locate, stay, and grow here.

For generations women have fought for a place at the table. It has a been a long and difficult fight and it has been frustrating and at times depressing. It is equally frustrating when women fail to recognize those women in the Bay State who are truly powerful leaders, like Senate President Spilka.

As Barbara Lee rightfully stated in her commentary, “When women and girls see women in positions of power, they can cut through stereotypes to imagine themselves in similar roles.” Being the Massachusetts Senate president is a critical role we need future generations of women to not only imagine themselves in, but aspire to as well.

Cynthia Stone Creem is the majority leader of the Massachusetts Senate and Cindy F. Friedman is the Senate chair of the Committee on Healthcare Financing and vice chair of the Senate Ways and Mean Committee.