Masonic Homes have historically been staffed by a mix of men and women. But as of the last 15-20 years, it has been increasingly common to see women at the helm of these Home’s, which are grounded in the Tenets of the Masonic Fraternity. Reported in yesterday’s Columbia Business Times, I read the story of Barbara Ramsey, who is the Executive Director of the Masonic Home of Missouri. She is doing a terrific job, and so are other women around the Country!
This is welcomed and timely news.
Because I have lived and networked within Indiana, I remembered that the Masonic Home in Franklin, IN- Compass Park- had been run previously by Dawn Wendel, who is now Executive Director at Magnolia Healthcare Systems. So, I figured that these instances of female leadership in a very often all-male world must not be uncommon. Indeed, after a VERY quick and probably rather shallow search, I found that several States (again- this is by no means a comprehensive list and/or assessment), have Masonic Homes with Boards of Directors and Executive Administrators made up largely of women.
Of some of the States/Homes that I did a quick search, including Missouri:
- Masonic Home of Missouri: Barbara Ramsey, Executive Director
- The Nebraska Masonic Home: Mary Stockton, Executive Director
- Maryland Masonic Homes: Paula O’Neill, Executive Director
Even in States where the Boards of Trustees were all male, or nearly all male, the female presence at the Executive and Administrative level was still impressive! Some examples:
- At the Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania, the Chief Executive is the Illustrious Joseph E. Murphy. However, under him are Executive Directors (one for each campus), and 3 out of 5 of these are women.
- Likewise, in Florida, the Board of Trustees of the Masonic Home of Florida are all men… they are all Masons. But once again, beneath the level of Trustee, there are 7 out of 8 key Administrative positions held by women.
- The Masonic Care Community of New York has Robert Raffle as its Executive Director and beneath him are 9 senior level administrative positions- 7 of which are run by women.
- At the Masonic Home of Virginia, James D. Cole is the Chief Executive, and here we find that in the end, 2 out of the 4 top posts are filled by females.
I write all of this- NOT to downplay any fanfare of Barbara Ramsey at the Masonic Home of Missouri. Rather, it is to applaud and recognize these women for the roles that they are playing in the welfare of our Fraternal Assistance Institutions. It may very well be that the ALL-Male Institution of Freemasonry is among the first to outright encourage women to shatter what appears to be a NON-Existent glass ceiling in its care facilities.
It is no secret that, as a long-standing rule (though challenged in modern times), women have not only been the “go-to” caretakers of human kind; but in MANY cases, women have operated… ran if you will– households and household finances across America. This is by no mistake, and instead appears to by design. In many cases, women are simply BETTER at many of the tasks that there are to be done! Some research (a VERY small amount of research) follows.
The Harvard Business Review reported that “Diversity on boards is critical to sustaining performance. Broadening the composition of the board increases the size of the candidate pool and, more importantly, helps expand perspectives at the top. While most CEOs recognize the importance of appointing directors of different ages and with different kinds of educational backgrounds and functional expertise, they tend to underestimate the benefits of gender diversity”.
Furthermore, in direct relation to how women might be best suited (by their inherent nature), to operate effectively in a variety of situations (including Return on Investment and Risk Assessment), the Review went on to say that “Experts believe that companies with women directors deal more effectively with risk. Not only do they better address the concerns of customers, employees, shareholders, and the local community, but also, they tend to focus on long-term priorities. Women directors are likely to be more in tune with women’s needs than men, which helps develop successful products and services. After all, women drive 70% of purchase decisions by consumers in the European Union and 80% of them in the United States”.
Thank You & KUDOS to the women who are hard at work either running, or actively climbing the ladders at our Masonic Homes across the Nation. We, as Masons, Men, Women, and human beings, are indebted to them for their hard work and expertise.
The full article by Kennedy Robinson in the Columbia Business Times follows here:
“March 30, 2017 Daily News : Photography By: Keith Borgmeyer
For over hundreds of years, freemasonry has stood as the world’s oldest and largest fraternity. It’s a renowned brotherhood with a chief mission to help good men become better men. Members include distinguished historical figures such as George Washington, Davy Crockett, and Harry S. Truman, among other leaders in our nation’s history. In Missouri, the Masonic Home has been a charitable organization where masons provide assistance to individuals and communities in need. Many have been helped through its services, but one key player has been instrumental behind the scenes: a woman, named Barbara Ramsey.
For over a decade, Barbara has dedicated her professional career to the Masonic Home, and in 2013 she was named the executive director. In this position, she supervises the whole corporation and is responsible for all day-to-day operations. In her own words, “I am a female running their biggest charity, working with an all male board for the Masonic Home of Missouri.”
Barbara’s favorite part, she explains, “is the opportunity to help people. The staff here that I work with are such great, innovative and hard-working people. Everyone here is willing to help and see what we can do better and different. We’re part of a charity that’s been here for over 125 years, and we all want to make sure that its here after we’re gone for another 125.”
Taking a Chance
Barbara’s interest in service developed during her undergraduate studies at Westminster College, in Fulton, after her grandfather developed Alzheimer’s. The impact the disease had on her family, particularly on her grandmother, left a lasting impression. After graduating with her bachelor’s in psychology, Barbara set out to learn and understand the world of senior care. She found jobs at a nursing home and a social security administration where she soon realized that, to influence policy, she would be most effective in an administrative role.
“I wanted to run things,” she says. “I wanted to really figure out how to fix things for families and how to make things work for people.”
So Ramsey returned to school, this time to MU, for a master’s in public administration. Upon graduating, in 2001, Barbara still had no idea what her next move would be. She applied for a blind ad in the newspaper.
“It was for someplace called the Masonic Home of Missouri,” she says. “I didn’t know what a masonic home was or what masons were,” she continued. “But the ad was sort of perfect for me. They wanted someone who knew about working with the elderly, Medicare, and Medicaid. It was right up my alley.”
Originally hired as the director of outreach services, Barbara was in charge of providing assistance programs that helped seniors stay in their own homes and communities. Since then, she’s not only helped to expand programs, but was also instrumental in the creation of one, Creating-A-Partnership, a matching funds program that partners with lodges and chapters (local masonic societies) to help local children in need. In the 2016 fiscal year, the program provided over $257,800 in assistance.
Since being named executive director, Barbara has also had successes nationwide. She was elected to the Masonic Communities and Services Association’s board of directors, where she runs the outreach committee, serves as secretary of the board, and is, again, the only female.
When asked if this ever makes her nervous, her response was a simple but resounding no. “Even though they may be men, in a male fraternity and organization, I believe that I do really understand the charitable purpose and the history of the organization,” Ramsey says. “I respect it. I don’t ever feel like, because I’m not a man or because I’m not a mason, that I don’t understand. I feel like I very passionately understand who they help and why they help them.”
Although it sometimes may be hard to enter the room being the only “different” one, Barbara wants to show people that she is an unstoppable force. Mostly, she wants to show her daughters.
“Having two girls helps,” she says. “I really do want them to know that they can do anything. They can lead a company that is clearly a male-dominated, fraternal type of organization. And I want them to see that you can be strong and successful and grow and change things, even when people are sort of pushing back and fighting against you.”
As a self-proclaimed natural introvert, Barbara says that having confidence is vital to breaking down those barriers. She understands that making sure your voice is heard can be a challenging task. But remembering your identity and your mission — at least for her — makes everything worth fighting for.”