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Wait…What?! The Shifting Climate of the Women’s Workforce in Western MA Recording

“Wait…What?!” is a platform for candid discussion for the Women’s Fund community to convene on emerging issues we all face, albeit with varied challenges.

During the pandemic, community organizations and institutions sought to understand the complex and intertwined challenges people were facing. Pandemic-related or exacerbated issues were underscored in surveys that were traditionally implemented annually and in research initiatives that targeted lived experiences specific to the impact of COVID-19.

Our early May “Wait…What?!” was on Western Massachusetts women in the workforce in this shifting climate. In this discussion, we consider the findings, solutions, and best practices uncovered by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Policy, and The Commonwealth Institute – reports that discuss both the impact of COVID on the workforce and existing issues.

Meet the Guest Speakers

Tanisha Arena, Arise for Social Justice

Tanisha Arena is a black woman in community leadership as the executive director of ARISE for Social Justice, occupying the world’s messiest intersection, the space where race, gender, culture, identity, politics, and the law all collide. She has a passion for social justice, transparent, authentic leadership, and speaking truth to power. She is the host of the award-winning podcast, Unapologetic, bringing the hard truths of our social issues to the forefront, connecting the past to the present. She is a guest commentator on Vaya Con Munoz, a weekly radio show airing on 101.5 WHMP that focuses on local and national political issues. As a consultant for Growing A New Heart, she trains on Holding Space: holding affinity, anti-racism, self-education, support groups, and on Dialogues Across Differences of social location, including race and ethnicity. She has deep roots in the field of anti-violence work. Prior to that, Tanisha worked in the private sector, during which time she was a mentor at True Colors, a support and advocacy organization for sexual minority youth in Hartford, CT. Tanisha holds a bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University and a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management from Bay Path University and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace certification through the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business. She is a published author, public speaker, and freelance writer.

Michelle Gonçalves, UMass Women Into Leadership

Michelle Gonçalves [gone-solves] is the founder and executive director of UMass Women into Leadership, a professional development and leadership program based at the state’s flagship, public university that helps to create a public education to public leadership pipeline. She also serves as deputy chief of staff to the Chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. With more than 15 years of experience in public higher education, Michelle is an experienced administrator and program manager. She has worked as Director of Administration and Research for UMass Political Science, and Program Manager for the National Center for Digital Government; for the Science, Technology and Society Initiative; and for Women in the Information Age Project, all at UMass Amherst.

Michelle is the recipient of the prestigious Roy J. Zuckerberg Leadership Prize and has been recognized with Chancellor Citation awards three times. She has been an AAUW Start Smart facilitator since 2014, served as an inaugural Commissioner on the Hampden County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, is chair of her hometown’s local cultural council, and is secretary of the Friends chapter of her local public library.

Michelle received a bachelor’s degree in sociology, with a focus on women’s studies, from Providence College and a Master’s of Public Policy and Administration from the Center for Public Policy and Administration (now School of Public Policy) at UMass Amherst, where she also received the Philip Hertz Award for dedication to public service. Michelle also holds a certificate in mediation from the Social Justice Mediation Institute.

Laura Sylvester, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts

Laura Sylvester, MPPA/MPH is the Public Policy Manager for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. She works with elected officials at the state and federal level on food policy and related issues such as SNAP, HIP, college hunger, the Cliff Effect, and MEFAP/TEFAP. She sits on multiple regional and statewide committees and coalitions working on creative cross-sector solutions to our most pressing social problems.

Laura also serves as the Vice Chair of the Hampshire-Franklin Commission on the Status of Women & Girls.

Before coming to the Food Bank, she worked to pass the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and as an ethnographer at Caring Health Center in Springfield, analyzing housing and social service policies and their effect on homelessness. Laura completed the yearlong Leadership for Public and Political Impact training offered by the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts in 2013. Since then she has been on a mission to encourage women to run for office and take on leadership roles. She has served a delegate to the MA State Democratic Convention since 2016.

She is a seasoned policy and communications professional who has also worked as a journalist, editor, and in marketing. She lives in Shutesbury with her husband and is the proud mom of two children now in their 20s.

Dr. Marta Vicarelli, UMass Department of Economics and School of Public Policy

Marta Vicarelli is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on: (i) the risks and the socio-economic impacts of climate variability and climate change; (ii) the economics of sustainable architecture, energy-efficient infrastructure, and green urbanism; (iii) the economics of disaster risk-reduction based on the use of ecosystems; and (iv) the design of climate vulnerability-reduction instruments, such as weather-indexed insurance programs.

From 2004 to 2010, she worked as a research fellow at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies investigating observed impacts and responses to climate change. She is contributing author of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group II, on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. She is the recipient of the Peccei Fellowship (2007) awarded by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna for her work on integrating inter-annual climate variability forecasts into weather-indexed crop insurance. In 2009 she was awarded the Giorgio Ruffolo Fellowship by the Harvard University Sustainability Science Program; the award came with the invitation to work as a Fellow at the Harvard University’s Center for International Development from 2009 to 2011. She joined the Yale University Climate and Energy Institute as a postdoctoral fellow from 2011 until 2013 investigating the exposure in early life to severe climate-related weather shocks (i.e. in utero and in the first years of life) and the economic consequences on long-term health, cognitive development and professional/educational attainment.

She holds a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, a Master of Environmental Economics from the École Polytechnique, as well as a Master of International Affairs, and a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development from Columbia University.

Watch the previous recording of Wait…What?! International Transgender Day of Visibility

Wait…What?! International Transgender Day of Visibility Recording