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By Matt Murphy


STATE HOUSE — In an effort to give women their best opportunity for success in the workplace, Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday will announce a new initiative to examine policies the state can promote and adopt to advance the careers of women and the creation a fellowship program placing women in year-long executive branch positions.

Patrick will announce the new initiatives at Bentley University on Wednesday afternoon where he will also challenge private sector leaders to establish similar programs in their companies, according to an administration official.

“An economy is only at its best when every individual has an equal opportunity to participate," Patrick said in a statement. “By focusing on redefining our own strategies to support women in the workplace, and challenging our business community to do the same, we will strengthen our economy and build a better Commonwealth for generations to come.”

The new Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Fellowship – created in concert with Bentley University’s Center for Women in Business – will place fellows in positions within state government and quasi-public agencies for a year where they will be also be able to participate in leadership development and networking programs developed by Bentley. The application process will open in late April, with selections made in June and fellowships starting in September, according to the administration. It is expected that there will be roughly a dozen or more fellows at a cost to the state of an estimated $1 million in fiscal 2015, depending on positions and salaries.

Patrick also plans to create a task force that will report back to him in six months with recommendations on what the state can do to advance women in their careers in the public sector and policies the state could adopt governing employment in the private sector. The administration said the task force should look at issues such as equal pay, flex time, family-conducive scheduling, maternity leave, lactation facilities and child care.

Though the Office of Access and Opportunity reported last year that 50 percent of all managers and 49 percent of senior managers in the executive branch were women, Massachusetts still lags the country when it comes to women in leadership position at large private corporations.

The Boston Club earlier this year reported that 13.8 percent of the directors of Massachusetts’ 100 largest public companies are women, an all-time high for the state but still below the 17 percent national average. Even fewer are women of color and the majority of these companies have no female executive officers.