In around 2003, Joanne Kamens had a realization after attending a week of meetings at her pharmaceutical company and never sitting in a room with another woman (and being asked to take “minutes” more than once). This resulted in her doing what scientists do – research on what happened to all the women?  She stumbled on the national AWIS website and was confused to find no Boston Chapter. Of all cities, how could Boston not have a chapter?

It turned out that the Boston chapter had folded in the early 80’s leaving a void. Meanwhile, Kristin O’Brien was asking the same questions of the national AWIS office. Joanne and Kristin were introduced and they decided to see what they could do about re-founding a chapter in the Boston area. Joanne and Kristin struggled through figuring out how to start a chapter (a process now much improved with the help of the amazing Cindy Simpson in the AWIS national office).

Now… how to get the word out? This was before the real advent of social media outlets so we had to go kind of old school. Back then email was just becoming an integral part of life and no one had a smart phone! The national office had a list of AWIS members who lived in Massachusetts. In October 2004, Joanne and Kristin finally sent a blast email to this list and announced an informal organizational meeting to take place in Joanne’s living room in Newton, MA. About 20 women showed up! They were all fired up and excited to be there. Some women there had been part of the original Boston Area AWIS chapter and were helpful in getting this started back up. By-laws were drafted. A bank account was opened. Joanne took the role of president and Kristin took the role of treasurer to get things started.

With so much history and enthusiastic help, the chapter started off strong with a full slate of programs. The first year of MASS AWIS programming included networking events, program planning/recruiting, panel discussions, and sharing science talks.

One of the attendees at that meeting was Rebecca Pitts who would later become our second chapter president in 2007. Penny Beuning, the president of the new Boston GWIS was also there as well as Karen Yee who had been active in the Seattle chapter of AWIS. Karen has been an integral part of MASS AWIS since then serving on the Chapter Board in many roles.  We chose the name MASS AWIS because it had a nice ring and we wanted to include areas outside Boston when possible.

In 2005, MASS AWIS started the Yahoo email list and this has steadily grown and grown over the years and we started using Acteva for event registration in 2006. Currently the chapter has over 300 members as we approach our 10th anniversary.

The MASS AWIS Mentoring Circle program

An important part of the chapter’s history is the establishment of the ever-growing group mentoring program. In early 2007, our friend and supporter Sarah Cardozo Duncan met up with 4 AWIS members all struggling to move from academia to industry. These women all had very unsupportive advisors and were trying to do this very “stealthily”. Sarah helped them set up a formal support group and this group started meeting monthly to talk, share and get advice from Sarah who is a real “uber” mentor and from each other. Within some months, all these women were happily settled in new jobs and the group continues to meet occasionally even in 2012. MASS AWIS considers this its “first” Mentoring Circle.

Joanne Kamens had been working with a new model for mentoring called mentoring “circles”. With too few women in senior positions to be mentors, the circle model helps get the most from the more senior mentors and adds an excellent peer mentoring aspect to the mix. The AWIS Mentoring Circle program was born. Starting with only a few groups, it steadily grew with 7 circles, then 12—the 2011-2012 program has 18 mentoring circles. You can learn more about the MASS AWIS Mentoring Circle Program here.

MASS AWIS Board History

October 2004 – first organizational meeting

2006 Officers:

President – Joanne Kamens

Vice-Presidents – Rosa Melendez and Rebecca Pitts

Administrator – Karen Yee

Treasurer – Kristen O’Brien

2007 Officers:

President – Joanne Kamens

Vice-Presidents – Rosa Melendez and Rebecca Pitts

Administrator – Serena Silver

Treasurer – Carolyn Cho

2008 Officers:

President – Rebecca Pitts

Vice-Presidents – Katrin Arnold and Carol Manahan

Administrator – Natalie Catlett

Treasurer – Carolyn Cho

2009 Officers:

President – Rebecca Pitts

Vice-Presidents – Katrin Arnold and Carol Manahan

Administrator – Jessica Sedan

Treasurer – Carolyn Cho

2010 Board of Directors:

President – Carolyn Cho

Vice-Presidents – Elona Kolpakova Hart and Jessica Tytell

Administrator – Jessica Sedan

Treasurer – Natalie Catlett

Events – Lynnelle Pittet and Meredith Bowman

Mentoring – Masha Hareli and Karen Page

Past President – Rebecca Pitts

2011 Board of Directors:

President – Masha Hareli

Vice-President – Lynnelle Pittet

Administrator – Anne-Elise Tobin

Treasurer – Natalie Catlett

Events – Beth Hovey and Christa Van Dort

Mentoring – Karen Page and Tooba Cheema

Sponsorship – Elona Kolpakova Hart and Masha Hareli

Membership – Karen Yee

Past President – Carolyn Cho

2012 Board of Directors:

President – Karen Page

Vice-President – Beth Hovey

Administrator – Anne-Elise Tobin

Treasurer – Karen Yee

Events – Christa Van Dort and Yoojin Chung

Membership – Janet Buhlmann

Mentoring – Sohini Mazumdar and Tooba Cheema

Sponsorship – Karen Page

Past President – Masha Fridkis-Hareli

2013 Board of Directors:
2014 Board of Directors:
2015 Board of Directors:
2016 Board of Directors:
July 2016 – June 2017 Board of Directors:
July 2017 – June 2018 Board of Directors:
July 2018  June 2019 Board of Directors:
July 2019  June 2020 Board of Directors:
July 2020 June 2021 Board of Directors:
July 2021 – June 2022 Board of Directors:
July 2022 – June 2023 Board of Directors:

Also see: About MASS AWIS