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Poll may help Commonwealth Institute’s chief get more women in the C-suites

Commonwealth Institute executive director Elizabeth Hailer is launching what she calls the state’s first statewide corporate leadership development survey for women’s careers.Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

Efforts to bring more women into the C-suite have been slow to gain traction in Massachusetts. Elizabeth Hailer is hoping to step up the pace a bit.

To some extent, that’s part of her job description: Hailer became executive director of the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit that provides career assistance for women, a little over a year ago.

But she’s taking that role to a new level by launching what she calls the state’s first statewide corporate leadership development survey for women’s careers. So far, about 100 companies have responded, and she expects many more to be returned before the window closes later this month.


The research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey is conducting the confidential, 20-minute poll. Hailer has help from key sponsors that include American Tower, DentaQuest, Liberty Mutual, the law firm Bowditch & Dewey, and former Boston Fed chief Cathy Minehan.

The poll asks various questions aimed at figuring out what companies are doing to develop, retain, and promote women.

“The most important thing is to take a snapshot of where we are, what needs to be done going forward, and how we can best move the pipeline of women leaders,” Hailer says.

Hailer has also been expanding her group’s membership — the total is approaching 500 individuals and businesses, up 25 percent from a year ago — and this research project should help toward that end. When the institute was started two decades ago, it was essentially a networking group for female CEOs. The mission has since broadened to encompass a variety of executives and entrepreneurs, including the next generation of women leaders.

“A lot of people still think it’s [only] for women CEOs, they can’t get in, or it’s too exclusive,” Hailer says.

“That’s how it started. But the membership we offer today is very different than what we offered 20 years ago.”


One of Akamai’s original big names is retiring

It’s hard to know what the boardroom turnover means for Akamai Technologies Inc. One thing is for certain: Change is coming to the Cambridge company.

Most notably, George Conrades, 79, is retiring from the board as of its annual shareholder meeting June 1. But he has already lost his chairman title. Frederic Salerno, the board’s lead independent director, was elevated to the post last week.

Few individuals are more associated with Akamai than Conrades, who has been a board member almost since the beginning, in the late 1990s. He was CEO from 1999 through 2005 and later became executive chairman. (Cofounder Tom Leighton, the current CEO, has been there since the beginning.) By the time Conrades arrived at Akamai, he’d already had a successful career in the networking world, with top posts at BBN and then at GTE, after it acquired BBN.

“While I am retiring from a formal capacity, Akamai will always remain a part of me,” Conrades says.

The announcement Conrades will retire made no mention of activist investor Elliott Management’s stake in the company, or of reports that Akamai hired an investment bank to weigh a possible sale of the company. Akamai and Elliott recently agreed to install two new directors. One of them, Tom Killalea, is a former Amazon executive.

Asked whether Conrades’ retirement was related to the company’s strategic review, a company spokesman offered this in an e-mail: “For the past 20 years, George has made extraordinary contributions to Akamai and has been integral to the company’s success. He’s up for a three-year renewal term, and he decided now, given where he is in his life and his career, that it was the time to retire. It was completely his choice.”


Among lobbyists, ML is still leader of the pack

In Boston’s highly competitive lobbying industry, ML Strategies continues to finish ahead of the crowd.

The government relations arm of law firm Mintz Levin received the most revenue from state lobbying of any firm in the city last year, according to statistics from Secretary of State William Galvin’s office. ML scored nearly $3.9 million in lobbying fees, down slightly from $4.1 million in 2016. That was still enough to keep ML ahead of its closest rivals — O’Neill and Associates and Rasky Partners — for another year.

Chief executive Steve Tocco takes pride in overseeing a bipartisan team, with operators like former Republican governor Bill Weld working alongside former Democratic state senator Steve Baddour.

ML’s client list continues to include companies from a wide range of sectors, such as real estate (DivcoWest), energy (NextEra), and nonprofits (New England Aquarium).

Casino operator Wynn Resorts remained ML’s top client. The company is likely to keep Tocco and his team busy in 2018, as Wynn works toward completing its $2.4 billion Everett project amid increased scrutiny from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission because of sexual harassment claims against its founder, former CEO Steve Wynn.

Perhaps Tocco’s biggest win last year wasn’t a new client, but a new hire: Tocco lured former House Ways and Means chairman Brian Dempsey away from the State House to be his number two. His previous top lieutenant, former US senator Mo Cowan, left earlier in 2017 to work for General Electric. (GE used to be a client, but state records show the Boston-based company hasn’t enlisted ML for lobbying work in 2018.)


Tocco says his firm makes a point of expanding beyond legislative work, to include navigating other facets of government bureaucracy and providing strategic advice. ML helped with permits for the new Omni hotel proposed for the Seaport, for example.

“Pure lobbying is probably only half our practice, walking around Beacon Hill and talking to people,” Tocco says. “That’s always important to have, and you need it. But you don’t have to live and die on the legislative cycle.”

Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.