Specht ’11 Fights for Women’s Rights in Massachusetts

Lennie Specht '11
Lennie Specht '11
In a courtroom in Boston, representatives from the National Organization of Women (NOW) sit in on a decision of children’s custody. They are there to remind the judge to be fair and impartial, as a representative of women’s rights worldwide. As a legislative intern with the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW), Lennie Specht ’11 works to improve the legislation regarding women’s issues in the state of Massachusetts.

The MCSW is a committee that advises and advocates certain pieces of legislation in the state of Massachusetts. The 19 women on the committee were appointed by the governor to serve due to their prominent status in the legal community; members include doctors, lawyers, and wives of politicians. Many of the committee members are involved in other women’s organizations (such as NOW) or have worked with women’s issues by other means.

Every year, the committee focuses on one to three issues of pressing concern in the state. This year, the issues of focus are violence against women (including domestic violence, sexual harassment, and stalking) and economic self-sufficiency, or pay equity. Specht will be the intern in charge of researching domestic violence issues and will act as a liaison between the legislative committee and the other commissioners on this issue. Domestic violence has long been a nationwide concern; in Massachusetts, a woman who has reported domestic abuse often loses in a child custody battle as she is rendered “mentally unfit” to care for her children. In past years, the committee has also worked for pay equity and has been working on a bill to rectify the gross imbalance of male and female payment for equal work: in Massachusetts, women still earn only 75 cents for every dollar a man earns. The bill will define “equal work,” laying down parameters such as level of education and number of years at the company.

Because the committee tackles such a broad scope of important issues, they constantly need information regarding the treatment of similar issues in other states. As the legislative intern, Specht researches other agencies that fight for women’s concerns and observes the angles they have taken to best approach such controversial issues. Other states often focus on child custody and gender inequity, issues that are pressing all over the country, and the steps they have taken aids the MCSW in finding the best course of action to achieve their goals as well as the most constructive way to contribute and lend their support.

By working with the MCSW, Specht sees the close interconnection of legislation and citizens’ everyday lives, entities that can often seem so distant from one another. “The research aspects give me a much clearer idea of how to use legal language and how difficult it is for bills to get passed,” she said. As a member of Hamilton’s mock trial team, Specht learned how to use decisions in previous cases to her advantage in proving her case. “Mock trial showed me how cases can influence other cases in trial; this allows me to see how one decision will affect women in general, not just limited to one specific case,” she said. Exposed to so many strong women who are vocal on so many controversial issues, Specht also finds her own career goals solidifying before her eyes. “It’s been a great experience and it’s made me more inclined to get into law,” Specht said. “I’m interested in family law, so [concerns about] domestic violence are right up my alley.”

However, Specht’s internship with the MCSW is unfunded, so she most likely would not have accepted if she had not applied for and received Hamilton’s Joseph F. Anderson ’44 Internship Fund, administered through Hamilton's Career Center. The fund provides stipends to support full-time internships for students wishing to take on not-for-profit internships in preparation for potential careers after graduation. A student in any proposed or declared area of concentration may apply for the award.

Specht is a graduate of The Taft School in Watertown, Conn.
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