40 Under 40 The Class of 2015

Elizabeth Barajas-Román

CEO, Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts; Age 38

Elizabeth Barajas-Román

Elizabeth Barajas-Román

Elizabeth Barajas-Román has lived in many places — she was born in Lincoln, Neb., attended college in Ohio (Oberlin) and Cambridge (Harvard), and spent many years in Washington, D.C. But in many respects, home has always been the public library.

“When I was young, my mother essentially educated herself, at the public library, in how to set up her own business,” she explained while tracing the origins of her passion. “And that helped set us in the right direction when it came to education. Supporting the public library is something that’s always been close to my heart.”

And it still is today in her new place of residence — Northampton, where she spends many hours at both the Forbes Library and the Lilly Library in Florence, engaged in a host of programs.

While doing so, she is writing the next chapter in what has already been an intriguing career. Indeed, after stints as a city planner in Cambridge, director of Policy & Operations for the Justice Research Institute in Boston, reporter with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, director of Policy for the Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and campaign manager for Pew Charitable Trusts, she became CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts last summer.

Her ambitious goal is to scale up the WFWM’s already-impressive track record for supporting programs for women and girls and position them as leaders within the community, and the organization is making considerable progress with meeting it.

Indeed, the Women’s Fund is currently seeking proposals for an additional round of grant making that will total $240,000 and include initiatives in each of the four western counties.

Meanwhile, she’s been meeting with a number of groups and individuals to gauge specific needs within the community and generate opportunities to continue and enhance partnerships that help expand the WFWM’s mission and broaden the already-considerable impact of its philanthropy.

It’s a learning experience that is ongoing and occupies most of her time. However, she is involved within the community in several other ways, most recently as a member of state Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s Financial Literacy Trust Fund Board, which plans to incorporate a range of initiatives, including money management, college affordability, and programming to support wage equality in the Commonweralth.

“The Women’s Fund’s mission is to invest in the lives of local women and girls in order to create a better community for all,” said Barajas-Román. “Serving on the board will provide an important perspective for our work in Western Massachusetts.”

— George O’Brien
Photo by Denise Smith Photography