Power: The 100 Women Who Run This Town
47, President and CEO, Colette Phillips Communications
It was June 23, 1990, when Phillips got her big break in Boston. Hundreds of thousands had crowded the Esplanade to catch a glimpse of Nelson Mandela on his one-day visit. Phillips, founder of Boston’s first successful black-owned PR firm, scored the job of coordinating media relations. Nearly 13 years later, the former press secretary to the prime minister of Antigua (where she was born and raised) has become a veteran schmoozer who’s managed PR projects for FleetBoston Financial, Major League Baseball, and Blue Cross Blue Shield, not to mention celebrity-driven events with the likes of Bill Cosby and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Expect Phillips to be busy at next year’s Democratic National Convention, which she calls Boston’s “opportunity to brand itself as America’s first global village.”
59, Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
When a museum is best known for what was stolen off its walls, not what still hangs on them, the challenge for its director is obvious. That was the situation facing Anne Hawley as the 100th anniversary of the Gardner approached this year. Starting with the New Year’s Day celebration at the four-story Venetian-style palace, Hawley has been aggressively promoting the museum’s diverse offerings — millions of dollars’ worth of art and antiquities that span some 30 centuries. No one will be able to make visitors forget the 1990 heist, but that doesn’t mean she can’t get them to come see what still makes this museum so special.
49, Columnist, the Boston Herald’s “Inside Track”
41, Columnist, the Boston Herald’s “Inside Track”
The movers and shakers in this town who aren’t in awe of the “Track girls” live in fear of them. Either way, when they pick up the Herald in the morning, they turn to the “Inside Track” first.
President, Cumberland Farms
As head of the most profitable woman-led independent company in Massachusetts, Bentas runs a Canton-based convenience store empire with 6,900 employees and $1.7 billion in annual revenues. That includes 900 stores and gas stations, plus a real estate and auto sales arm. Bentas might have to flex some of her muscle to fend off competition from 7-Eleven, which started expanding in New England in 2000.
Kerry M. Healey
42, Lieutenant Governor
The former state GOP chair doesn’t quite rise to the “cogovernor” status bestowed on her Lieutenant Governor predecessors Jane Swift and Paul Cellucci. She rarely even gets the mike at press conferences. On the other hand, “She’s clearly a person of significant influence,” says Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Municipal Association. Healey has the ear of the most important politician in the state, and she’s got his blessing, too: Governor Romney regularly dispatches her to execute his agenda in meetings with mayors and city officials from Boston to the Berkshires. Will we be seeing more of her? Only the governor knows.
Lynn W. Lyford
55, Regional Director of Global Government Affairs, Electronic Data Systems; President, the Boston Club
Lyford heads up regional government relations for EDS, an IT behemoth with 35,000 business and government clients in more than 50 countries. She’s also president of the Boston Club, a 27-year-old group for senior executive women. The club has more than 500 hotshot members interested in, among other things, putting more power in the hands of women. To that end, it hosted its first gubernatorial candidate breakfast in the fall so senior executive women in the private sector could voice their concerns directly to Beacon Hill. Lyford also sits on the boards of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Trustees of Reservations, which owns nearly 100 conservation areas including Crane Beach and the Charles River Peninsula.
50, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Harvard University
With her February promotion to CFO, this former Price Waterhouse accountant and 12-year Harvard administration veteran took control of cash flow at the richest university on the planet. (The endowment is currently $17.5 billion.)
Dr. Mary Jane England
64, President, Regis College
As a member of the Commission for the Protection of Children in the Archdiocese of Boston (she was appointed by Cardinal Bernard Law before he stepped down) and the first lay president of the last Roman Catholic women’s college in Greater Boston, England has been called the region’s most prominent Catholic laywoman. Her résumé is as long as a Henry James novel. Over the years, she’s served as director of child psychiatry at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, associate dean at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services . . . everything but shortstop for the Red Sox. Don’t be surprised if you see her in uniform this spring.
52, Vice President and General Manager, DePrisco Jewelers
DePrisco, who runs the company her parents opened on Washington Street in 1948, has built a reputation as the “jeweler to the stars,” with branches handy to the elite in Osterville and Wellesley. Her devoted customers have been known to send her to New York to put in bids for them at Sotheby’s. And DePrisco, whose specialty is diamonds, isn’t stingy with the profits. She donates pricey baubles to raise money for the likes of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, and serves on the boards of Catholic Charities and the Boston Public Library.
Janice Mancini Del Sesto
53, General Director, Boston Lyric Opera
Since Del Sesto took the helm of the Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) as general director (opera parlance for “CEO”) 11 years ago, this once-small organization has become the fastest-growing opera company in North America. While other arts organizations feel the pinch of an economic recession and shrinking attendance, the BLO’s subscriber base has doubled in the last six years. Under Del Sesto’s hands-on leadership, it has sold out six of its past eight seasons, and its operating budget has ballooned from $1 million to more than $7 million. Note the staggering success of the two free outdoor productions of Carmen on the Common in September, which attracted an estimated 140,000 viewers.
43, Vice President, Voice of the Faithful
56, Trustee, Counsel Moderator, Voice of the Faithful
Mary Ann Keyes
62, Trustee, Chair of Parish Voice, Voice of the Faithful
A little more than a year ago, the prospect of women ranking this high in an organization that had anything to do with the Catholic Church was unimaginable. Enter Voice of the Faithful. Formed in response to the priest sex scandal, the organization is giving a platform to lay Catholics — like, for example, women — who would not otherwise have any say in church decisions. Ann Carroll, the newly elected vice president, helps shape policy here in Boston as the organization continues to gain clout. Maura O’Brien, an attorney, handles legal issues. Mary Ann Keyes is working to take the Newton-based group global. “This is the greatest experience in my life,” says Keyes, “and I’ve had many.” Barely more than a year old, Voice of the Faithful now has more than 150 affiliates all over the United States and Canada.
65, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT; member, Columbia Accident Investigation Board
Sheila Widnall was named in March to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, which honored her most notably for being the first woman to command the U.S. Air Force (1993-97). The same day, she was addressing the media in Houston about the shuttle disaster as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and vice president of the National Academy of Engineering. In her day job at MIT, she has advanced a theory that explains why, if you blow a smoke ring, the smoke will wiggle even if there’s no wind — a theory called the “Widnall instability,” which landed her among Discover magazine’s 50 most important women in science. Don’t smoke? This theory still affects you. It’s part of her research into ways of making flying more efficient for everyone.
42, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
Membership in the ACLU has risen 20 percent since the September 11 terrorist attacks, when the USA Patriot Act and other laws started taking sizable bites out of the Bill of Rights. On the front lines in Massachusetts is Carol Rose, who took over in January. Rose is battling conservatives over, among other privacy violations pushed through in the name of security, racial profiling and a new federal antiterrorism program that would zap a coding system on passengers flying out of airports such as Logan. “It’s really an all-out frontal assault on our basic form of government,” she says. Rose knows a thing or two about the importance of civil liberties: She cut her teeth as a journalist in oppresive Middle East nations before going to work at now-defunct Hill & Barlow as a specialist in First Amendment issues.