By Nicole Bernier
Photography by Conor Donerty | April 20, 2015 | People
Politicians and professors, authors and executives, doctors and neuroscientists: Boston’s leading women share their triumphs, failures, life lessons, and industry secrets with the next generation, and discover that wisdom is ageless.
On Barbara: Dress, Boss ($1,195). Bloomingdale’s, The Mall at Chestnut Hill, 617-630-6000. Brass collar, Robert Lee Morris ($550). Impulse by Adamas Fine Jewelry, 180 Linden St., Wellesley, 781-416-1800. Watch, Barbara’s own. On Ayanna: Sweater, Eileen Fisher ($328). The Mall at Chestnut Hill, 617-964-5200. 18k yellow-gold and platinum oval-shape narrow diamond cuff ($15,000) and 18k yellow-gold and platinum oval-shape narrow diamond ladies’ cuff ($15,000), Alexandra Mor. Dorfman Jewelers, 24 Newbury St., 617-536-2022. Cuff, Robert Lee Morris ($375). Impulse by Adamas Fine Jewelry, 180 Linden St., Wellesley, 781-416-1800. Click ring, Swarovski ($125). The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-578-0705. Skirt, Ayanna’s own
Barbara Lee (left) is a political strategist and fundraiser who helps women run for the US Senate or House of Representatives, for governor, or for local offices in Boston. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation conducts nonpartisan research and endows a training program for women at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. As a board member of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Lee brought the museum its largest gift of art ever: 43 works of 20th- and 21st-century art by women.
One of the women Lee encouraged to run for office is Ayanna Pressley. Pressley is the first woman of color to be elected to the Boston City Council in its 105-year history, and Emily’s List recently presented her with its 2015 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award. A former aide to US Representative Joseph Kennedy II, she became Senator John Kerry’s political director in 2009, before being elected to one of four at-large spots on the City Council.
Barbara Lee: Encouraging good people to run for office is very much related to mentorship. Politics has always been a blood sport in Massachusetts, and it’s always been an old boys’ club. So I had it in my mind for a long time to build a “new girls’ network” and help bring women up through the ranks by educating them, encouraging them, and helping to empower them. My foundation does research about the obstacles and opposition facing women candidates. We’ve found when you first approach women to run for office, they’ll say, “Oh no, no.” Even if they’ve thought about it, they haven’t dared to see themselves in those leadership roles.
Ayanna Pressley: I find that often women are not operating with the same sense of entitlement as our male counterparts. Entitlement gets a bad rap—it doesn’t need to have a negative connotation. It’s really about a level of assuredness in pursuing what you deserve. So it’s very beneficial to have someone who says, “You have something to contribute,” and to provide that sense of validation. Because women always think they’re not ready.
BL: The first time I saw Ayanna Pressley in action was at public events when she was a representative for Senator John Kerry. I saw how truly and deeply she cared for people and her passion for public service. That was the first time I asked her to run for office. I’m always on the lookout for talent.
AP: There are barriers for many women. It’s not just the financial logistics of raising money for the seat. It’s about how you are going to make a living while pursuing the seat. When I left my post with Senator John Kerry, I cashed out my 401(k) in order to run. There’s no question that being on Barbara’s roster legitimizes you to many women, who go on to make investments. But Barbara’s investment is far more than financial. She takes the time to get to know candidates and see something that other people don’t. She’s not afraid to back an underdog.
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Lisa Genova (ABOVE) is a New York Times best-selling novelist and a neuroscientist, with a bachelor’s degree in biopsychology from Bates College and a PhD from Harvard. Her first novel, Still Alice, was adapted into a movie, garnering Julianne Moore an Oscar as best actress for her portrayal of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Genova is now an international speaker on Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, and autism.
Samantha Landino is a research assistant in behavioral genetics at McLean Hospital. A graduate of Bates College with a BS in neuroscience, she heads to medical school in the fall.
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Lisa Genova: I always find a special connection with other women in the sciences because we’re a minority. As you get older, there are fewer and fewer women as you stick with it. For example, by the time I was in graduate school at Yale, I was the only woman in the program for two years running…. A female colleague from Bates and I created [an informal network] for neuroscience graduates from Bates, and women can get hooked up with a job as a lab technician at Harvard, Mass General, and McLean, where we’ve worked. It’s this legacy now, wouldn’t you say, Samantha?
Samantha Landino: It’s like a pipeline from Bates to these labs. I completely agree that there are fewer women as you advance up, especially in leadership positions. I’m going to medical school in the fall, and of all the physicians I’ve shadowed, I think 99 percent have been male. One specifically said, “Samantha, you should reach out to some women, because it’s a totally different ballgame as a female in this industry.”
LG: It’s interesting to me now at 44, having always viewed women’s mentorship as a necessary compensation for the disadvantage of a boys’ club, that there’s another way to look at it. It’s actually a tremendous opportunity, because the poor men don’t really get to talk about life balance; they’re just expected to be totally driven at one thing for their entire lives. As a woman, you’re able to talk to other women about other creative ways you could use your education and training that would lead to a fulfilled life.
SL: I’m in a lab surrounded by postdocs and grad students, and many don’t know what they want to do next, or realize that the lab might not be the place for them. I feel so grateful being able to speak to Lisa about how she has been able to launch her career in a nontraditional way, become so successful, and make an impact on the field.
LG: When you’re young, you think, Whatever I choose now is what I’ll do forever. There’s so much pressure and anxiety surrounding that decision. But you don’t have to continue what you were doing in your 20s. And you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to use that degree when you’re 40. Just learn everything you can now. Your education will never be wasted; your training will never be wasted. Because, my God, I’m a novelist. That’s completely crazy. When I was working 50 to 60 hours a week in a lab, I would have never guessed in a million years. But I know it’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
Vest, Vince ($795). 71 Newbury St., 617-279-0659. Perfect scoop tank, Nic+Zoe ($48). Bloomingdale’s, The Mall at Chestnut Hill, 617-630-6000. Pegno pants, Max Mara ($565). 69 Newbury St., 617-267-9775. 18k pink-gold Lucea diamond watch, Bulgari ($41,600). Saks Fifth Avenue, The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-262-8500
Dr. Monica Bharel (above) is the newly appointed commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which regulates the state’s hospitals, nursing homes, and more than 100 programs addressing infectious diseases, substance abuse, and a host of other issues. She was formerly chief medical officer at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which provides healthcare to more than 12,500 homeless adults and children in Greater Boston.
Dr. Jessie Gaeta replaced Dr. Bharel as chief medical officer of BHCHP, where she had practiced since 2002. In her advocacy work with the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance, Dr. Gaeta helped design and implement the statewide housing program Home & Healthy for Good, resulting in housing opportunities for more than 800 people.
Yinga top, Theory ($255). Saks Fifth Avenue, The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-262-8500. Skirt, Tibi ($1,195). Saks Fifth Avenue, see above. 18k yellow-gold Chic & Shine cuff ($3,780) and 18k yellow-gold Pois Moi diamond bangle ($12,600), Roberto Coin. Sidney Thomas Jewelers, The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-262-0935
Monica Bharel: This is a very special field, homeless medicine. The medical care is the same, but we have to figure out how to work within the boundaries of a patient’s priorities: Where am I going to sleep tonight? Where am I going to find my next meal? It’s hard for someone to prioritize taking care of high blood pressure or diabetes over those basic survival needs. If you’re serious about putting healthcare in a community of homeless individuals, you’re talking about bringing healthcare right to the street corner, finding people in the parks and sitting next to them with a portable blood pressure monitor and flu vaccine. Our medical staff has to be at the shelters and soup kitchens when the individuals are there, early mornings and late nights. We struggle with how to help move forward someone’s housing application while attempting to get control of their blood sugar.
Jessie Gaeta: Something Monica brought to our organization is a humility and desire to look at ourselves critically and always be thinking, How can we improve the quality of care we’re delivering? She brought this strong conviction that the care is going to rival that of any other institution in Boston. That’s the ethic we’ve grown under Monica. My career path and the way I think about medicine has been shaped dramatically by working with her.
MB: In healthcare, there’s a tradition of apprenticeship. You learn from an apprentice model, and then you teach it, and the next person learns and goes on to teach it. A lot of our mentorship comes from being in very challenging situations together.
JG: I’m always amazed when I go to brainstorm with Monica about something I think will be a challenge, and she has five or six ideas at her fingertips, ways for me to look at things differently. She’s a calm, logical thinker who has this amazing ability to analyze problems at a systems level, but she also translates it to a one-on-one patient level.
MB: One of the things that made me want to connect with Jessie was her ability to think creatively with limited resources, and our shared commitment: How do we think about the patient in front of us but also take the 10,000-foot view? How do we provide the highest care in a value-based system? We were jointly aligned around those issues.
Basilia cardigan, Escada ($1,575). Saks Fifth Avenue, The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-262-8500. Trousers, J.Crew ($188). Copley Place, 617-236- 5950. Darkened sterling silver Renaissance bracelet ($975) and sterling silver Renaissance bracelet ($975), David Yurman. Copley Place, 617-236-8777. Slip, necklace, and ring, Carol’s own
Carol Fulp (above) is president and CEO of The Partnership Inc., which is dedicated to attracting, training, and retaining professionals of color in leadership positions. Previously at John Hancock Financial, Fulp headed the company’s $12 million philanthropic giving program, and in 2010 President Obama appointed her a representative to the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Leslie Feinberg is a member of the steering committee of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s New Frontier Network, which unites young leaders and philanthropists carrying on Kennedy’s ideals of public service. She is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and served as a policy advisor for Senator John Kerry.
Top, Helmut Lang ($335). Saks Fifth Avenue, The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-262-8500. Pants, Burberry ($895). 2 Newbury St., 617-236-1000. 14k white-gold Crisscross ring, Sidney Thomas Jewelers ($1,295). The Mall at Chestnut Hill, 617-965-5300. Spiral mini ring, Swarovski ($125). The Shops at Prudential Center, 617-578-0705
Leslie Feinberg: I first met Carol at an event at the JFK Library.
Carol Fulp: I’m a trustee, and Leslie’s dad is chair.
LF: I was immediately drawn to Carol’s warm, infectious personality. I continued to run into her at political events, and I noticed her unwavering commitment to the community of Boston. That’s very important to me. People are always around her; she’s definitely a connector. I asked to meet with her one-on-one, and later asked if she was willing to be my professional mentor. I went out on a limb, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
CF: At this stage of life, my intent is to help develop the next generation of leaders, and diversity is my passion. When you have a group of people in your organization who view things through a different lens, you get more innovation. What I saw in Leslie was this incredible bright light who represents our future. She is open to new and interesting ideas, new and interesting people, and has a commitment to diversity and equality. I have long-standing relationships with a young African American woman and a Latino woman who share the same core values as Leslie, and I wanted to put them together to learn from each other and their different cultures and see how much they have in common.
LF: Carol started bringing us to meetings in her home a few times a year to ask what direction we thought we were heading. They are now some of my closest friends.
CF: And Leslie brought them into the New Frontier Network, so now everyone benefits.
LF: Carol encourages me to take risks. At one point she said, “Leslie, I know you once mentioned the Kennedy School, and I think you should apply.” I had some ambivalence and I pushed back a little bit, but Carol would not have it. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.
CF: Mentoring should not be forced. I think more young individuals should take to the route that Leslie took, which is to look and find someone you might admire and have the courage to go up to them and ask to meet.
LF: I thought she would be a wonderful person to learn from.
CF: We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Leslie is supposed to be figuring out who might have information and lessons she might need to know. And I’m supposed to be taking time for the next generation and ensure I put people of difference together to lead this world. Because they’re going to do a far better job than you and I.
Blouse, Ralph Lauren ($595). 93-95 Newbury St., 617-424-1124. 18k yellow-gold Chic & Shine Station necklace ($3,000) and 18k white-gold diamond In-and-Out hoop earrings ($6,980), Roberto Coin. Sidney Thomas Jewelers, The Mall at Chestnut Hill, 617-965- 5300
Regina Herzlinger (above), the first woman to be tenured and chaired at the Harvard Business School, is one of the country’s leading minds on healthcare (Money magazine called her “the godmother of consumer-driven healthcare”). She has predicted some of the most important medical trends of recent years, including the decline of managed care in the 1990s.
Elena Avramov is a 2013 graduate of the Harvard Business School. As Herzlinger’s student, she proposed a chain of yoga and wellness studios. She currently works at Optum’s Consumer Solutions Group, which provides technology and services to support health management.
Regina Herzlinger: The greatest obstacle to leadership in healthcare is that you need to know a lot to be successful in the field. You need to know medicine to understand the regulatory environment, which is very complicated. You also need to understand the public policy environment and how medical providers get paid, which is very convoluted. In my class, I bring in CEOs. The purpose first of all is to enrich the students’ contact lists, but also to show that CEOs come in all shapes, sizes, races, and colors. Unfortunately, there are very few women in that group, not because I hadn’t invited them but because they don’t exist. Yet the message is: You can do it; these guys all did it, so you can do it, too.
Elena Avramov: One amazing experience working with Professor Herzlinger is just gaining confidence as a woman in healthcare, getting to know that space really well. A lot of it is a matter of inspiration, of being okay as one of the few women in the room. Or being able to forget you’re a woman and just show what you can do.
RH: Many of my women students have become very successful, especially in entrepreneurial positions. Healthcare needs entrepreneurism, which provides a much better life: As an entrepreneur, you have much more control over your time, over your freedom of expression, over what you can do. That’s how I advise my students. I say, “You should work in a large company—there are many good ones—and learn how they do things. But get out. Don’t stay there.”
EA: Professor Herzlinger’s class was one of my most treasured experiences of business school. She has this amazing ability to create not just an academic environment but a community. As alumni, we’ve really stayed in touch. She would talk about the commitment to stick with healthcare even though it’s a tough career path. It’s something she was really passionate about, and she conveyed that to us.
RH: My students have to do a business plan for a new healthcare venture. Elena is a yoga instructor as well as an excellent MBA, and I really admired her passion and her willingness to work hard. There’s a woman in New York who’s a Harvard MBA and a fantastic healthcare investor, and I introduced them. I hope that Elena’s dream about creating a chain of environments for good healthcare habits will come to fruition. I’m sure, like many things in healthcare, it’s just a matter of time.
Hair by Louise Rusk and Nefris Lopez. Makeup by Tavi de la Rosa and Andrea Taverna. Flowers by Winston Flowers. Location courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Boston