Thank you, Secretary Kaprielian. And thanks also to Pamela Goldberg, Alicia Barton, Dr. Beverly Scott, Betsy Myers, Marty Jones and Beth Monaghan, for sharing your personal stories today. I am proud to serve alongside you. And I am proud for the attendance of so many extraordinary women professionals and leaders this afternoon.
Speaking of extraordinary women professionals, let's acknowledge President Gloria Larson and thank her and the Bentley team for hosting us today.
Massachusetts leads the nation in student achievement, health care coverage, entrepreneurial activity, venture funding, economic competitiveness, veterans' services and so much more. Last year we added over 55,000 jobs, more in a single year than in nearly 15 years before, and continuing a four-year positive trend the likes of which we haven't seen in decades.
Why? Because we have a strategy to grow jobs and opportunity based on education, innovation and infrastructure. At the very center of it is innovation: that's what the focus on life sciences and biotech, on clean tech, on the whole range of digital technologies, and on advanced manufacturing are about.
And who leads each one of these initiatives? The answer is strong, smart, effective, well-prepared women. These women here. And Susan Wyndham-Bannister, who leads the Life Sciences Center. And Jean Yang who heads the Health Care Connector. And Kristen Thorn who heads MassHealth. And Secretary Andrea Cabral, another member of my Cabinet. Many of us have traveled the world promoting what we're all about and I'm here to tell you that we make a pretty good sales team. The results speak for themselves.
The fact is that when women succeed, Massachusetts succeeds. America succeeds. Growth and opportunity is the measure of that success. Massachusetts is back in the leadership business, and women leaders -- those here in the room and many others -- have played a central role in those accomplishments. So, let me pause here and thank each and every one of you and the teams that support you for the great service you have provided. I am proud to serve alongside you.
Our society has made great progress in women's equity over the last decades. But, as we all know, we have not reached the promised land. Women still on average do not get equal pay for equal work. Women still disproportionately sacrifice pay or even a career to care for children or ailing parents. Women still are under-represented in C-suites of major corporations or in boardrooms. And while the reasons for this are personal and nuanced, in many cases it's also true that flexibility is necessary to assure that the pipeline is full of all the talent we need to make the big decisions and face the big challenges before us in a globally competitive market. We need leadership, in the public and the private sector, that reflects the talent we know exists in every part of every community in our Commonwealth.
And we need to be intentional about it. So, today I am pleased to announce the formation of a Successful Women/Successful Families Task Force. I am charging this task force to study what we in the Executive Branch of state government can do better as an employer to support and advance women in the workplace.
Specifically, I am asking the Task Force to study and make recommendations on systemic barriers they see that impair a woman's ability to excel in state government and private employment too. Are there issues of equal pay or flex time? Do we need more family-conducive schedules? Are our policies around parental leave and childcare support adequate? Recommendations may include changes in policy or in law, and should draw from the best practices of other governments as well as from the private sector.
Secretary Kaprielian will lead this Task Force. I thank her and all the extraordinary women -- and men, too -- who have agreed to serve with her. I am charging this group to report back to me with recommendations within six months and am urging you to give me actionable recommendations on the basis of which I, or my successor, can make tangible improvements.
We also need ways to expose the next generation of women leaders to opportunities to lead. That's why the extraordinary leaders in this room got to be who they are. That's why I got to be who I am. Someone reached out and helped me get my chance, and then helped assure I made the most of it.
So, we are teaming up with Bentley's Center for Women and Business to design a fellowship for women graduate students in Massachusetts. These fellows will serve for a year in management positions in state government with real responsibility for project deliverables. In addition, they will participate in leadership development and networking programs during their tenure as fellows. The point is to give women a chance to try out their leadership skills in meaningful ways in service to the public. Private companies may also see a benefit in engaging fellows for similar opportunities. And the whole Commonwealth benefits because we will be developing a broader pool of experienced women managers for both the public and private sectors, and cultivating talent ultimately for C-suites and boardrooms.
Like a lot of things we do in this Administration, this is about our long-term best interests. I believe these are the kinds of steps we can and should take in state government to improve opportunities in the workplace. Together, we can make real progress and Massachusetts can lead in the area of workplace equity just as we do in so many others.