For first time ever, Boston Fed has majority female board of directors For first time ever, Boston Fed has majority female board of directors

The 5 women of the board discuss leadership journeys, preparing next generation The 5 women of the board discuss leadership journeys, preparing next generation

April 2, 2021

For the first time ever, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has a majority female board of directors.

Jeanne Hulit and Lauren Smith joined the board as new members in January, meaning that five of its nine members – or 56% – are women, including chair Christina Hull Paxson, president of Brown University.

"What the board shows is that women are leading in areas that are vitally important to New England," Paxson said.

Hulit is president and CEO of Maine Community Bank, while Smith is the chief health equity and strategy officer for the CDC Foundation.

The other female board members are Lizanne Kindler, CEO of the women’s clothing retailer Talbot’s, and Kimberly Sherman Stamler, president of Related Beal, an integrated real estate firm.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said industry and cross-state representation is critical when board members are selected. Rosengren also noted that, on average, boards in Massachusetts are about 23% female.

Kindler: There’s been improvement in women in leadership, but not enough

On Monday, the women gathered virtually to talk about the significance of the majority female board, their personal journeys, and preparing the next generation of leaders.

Kindler said she sees improvement in the number of women leaders, but not enough. Kindler noted that Fortune 500 companies now have a record number of women CEOs, and the total percentage is just 8%.

The women said the pathway to leadership can be challenging and circuitous.

Hulit has been in the workforce for more than 40 years in various sectors, and she said throughout her career "the opportunities that I had to advance my career did not necessarily come within the organization."

For her, growth came instead from volunteer efforts in economic development in Maine. Hulit served on the International Trade Center, Port Authority, and on the University of Maine boards, and she ended up in leadership positions at all those organizations.

"When you're leading the university board or the trade center or the Port Authority, it's hard for senior management not to recognize those leadership abilities,” she said. “That's what really made a difference in my career.”

“Be seen, speak up and be prepared”

The women of the board said that they learned to press on through difficulties on their career paths. Smith said she knitted together the lessons she's learned working in state and federal government as a clinician and as a consultant, and that’s part of the art of building resilience.

Having mentors can also be helpful, Stamler said. She said she considers people she reads about or follows mentors, even if she doesn’t have a direct relationship with them.

“It allows me to expand how I'm learning from others," Stamler said.

Smith said she tries to meet with everyone who asks because she feels it's her responsibility. She said she aims to be honest and “help them identify what they're looking for and help disabuse them of some misconceptions or misinformation about what a successful career trajectory can look like."

Whatever you do, Hulit said, don't wait to be recognized. "You create your opportunities. … Be seen, speak up and be prepared,” she said.

Paxson said she expects a continuing trend of more women serving as CEOs, board chairs, and, hopefully, high-level elected officials. She said as more women take leadership roles, it shows "we're in a new era, and that glass ceilings have been shattered."

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