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Beth Chandler creates and expands equitable environments in Boston

Justice Alcantar
Beth Chandler creates and expands equitable environments in Boston
Beth Chandler PHOTO: BOSTON WOMEN’S WORKFORCE COUNCIL

Beth Chandler’s career is a testament to her unwavering commitment to championing diversity, equity and inclusion. With more than 20 years of experience in program and business development, delivery and evaluation, and operations for both corporate and nonprofit organizations, Chandler has made significant strides in advocating for marginalized communities in Boston, particularly women of color.

Chandler’s academic pursuits led her to Harvard University, where she earned her undergraduate degree, followed by an MBA from Columbia Business School. She began her diverse career as a professional basketball player, but she soon transitioned into roles that allowed her to make a more profound impact. Her early career also included positions at Bank of America, the Urban Institute, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and NeighborWorks America.

Growing up as the younger of two children in a small Connecticut town, her experience was generally positive, but Chandler often felt out of place in the predominantly white, heteronormative community.

“That feeling continued long after I left my hometown. I was rarely in places where I wasn’t the ‘other,’” she recalls.

This early experience of being marginalized has fueled her passion for empowering underrepresented communities across Boston, the city in which she and her wife have built their life and are currently raising their children.

As an activist, Chandler continues to bring political and social change. Having experienced toxic work culture early on in her career, she is no stranger to dealing with adversity head on. Constantly made to second-guess herself and her work, Chandler says, she began to feel physically ill. Following a visit to the doctor, it was revealed that it was not simply her work affecting her, but the stress caused by the daily micro- and macro-aggressions she experienced. After that moment, she understood the leadership role she must take on within the movement to develop healthier work environments for women of color.

She joined YW Boston in 2012 and was appointed president & CEO of the organization in August 2018. She served in this capacity until earlier this year. During her tenure, she spearheaded numerous initiatives aimed at creating more inclusive environments, particularly for women of color. Dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, YW Boston offers a myriad of programs and initiatives. These programs amplify Chandler’s message that the problem does not lie within marginalized individuals, but “…within the systems in which we operate.” YW’s programs work with everyone to help them better understand systemic issues and the agency they have to make a difference.

One of these programs is LeadBoston, Boston’s largest network of inclusive leaders. This 11-month program equips “mid- to senior-level professionals with the knowledge, skills and network to propel their leadership and their organization’s success.”

Under her leadership, YW Boston implemented programs that empowered girls through social justice education; trained mid-to-senior level professionals on the importance of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion); and supported organizations in creating cultural shifts towards inclusivity. One achievement she is particularly proud of is forming a coalition to pass the parity on state boards and commissions legislation and support the “Yes on 3” campaign and the wage equity bill.

Chandler’s work at YW Boston involved addressing disparities within organizations, facilitating conversations with organizational leaders about the value of DEI and supporting them on their individual journeys toward achieving greater equity. Her efforts led to the revamping of processes within organizations to ensure equitable opportunities for women of color.

But Chandler’s influence in Boston extends far beyond her YW Boston role. Her ongoing work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts Leading Women Award in 2023, the Catalyst Award from Science Club for Girls in 2021 and Boston Business Journal’s Power 50 Movement Makers in 2021.

Chandler is deservingly proud of the work she has done.

“I hope our work led to more women of color advancing in their careers and feeling pride in their identities,” Chandler reflects.

In her new role as director of community investments at Point32Health Foundation, Chandler continues to advocate for equity and inclusion. A result of the merger between Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation and Tufts Health Plan Foundation, Point32Health is focused on advancing equity-focused solutions in healthy aging, healthy food access and behavioral health.

“Beth’s commitment to collaboration, community engagement and eliminating racism aligns with the Foundation’s values,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, the foundation’s president, in a May 2024 press release.

Chandler’s approach to leadership is deeply rooted in her core values. “Responsibility, justice and honesty have remained consistent over time,” she notes. As her career evolved, so did her understanding of the importance of shared leadership and grace.

“Shared leadership is about people being responsible for the decisions they own in an organization. Grace is about acknowledging my own humanity, as well as the humanity of others,” Chandler says.

Looking ahead, Chandler remains committed to fighting for equity and inclusion and to bringing attention to the discrimination faced by Black women in leadership positions. She is a fierce advocate for systemic change.

The current reality for Black professional women in the U.S. is one filled with adversity and doubt. They are feeling pressure to defend their right to positions they earned and worked toward. According to a 2019 McKinsey & Company survey conducted in partnership with LeanIn.org, 40% of Black professional women say they need to provide more evidence of their competence, compared to 28% of white women and just 14% of men.

“Hopefully, seeing me in leadership roles helps young Black lesbians and gender-expansive youth imagine it for themselves” she says, “and empowers middle-school girls of color to advocate for themselves and others, reminding them to take pride in their individual identities.”

While her accomplishments are abundant, Chandler’s work is far from over. With her new role, she is excited to continue her advocacy and make a lasting impact. Her work has already made a significant impact, and there is no doubt that she will continue to inspire and drive change for years to come.

DEI champion, Eastern Bank Board, Point32Health Foundation, YW Boston