At 22, Michelle Wu found herself as the caretaker of her mother (who had begun struggling with mental illness), the legal guardian of her sibling and the owner of the family business. She witnessed first-hand the ways government can help -- and the ways it can frustrate business owners. “I saw how much government matters,” she says, “and I wanted to help take down barriers for all families trying to navigate bureaucracy and access opportunity.” In 2013, at 28, Wu was elected to the Boston City Council, the first Asian-American ever to join the body.
Wu has helped make Boston a national leader on paid parental leave policies. Thanks to her efforts, Boston now offers six weeks of paid leave to any new parent who has worked for the city for at least a year. Wu says the measure is about leveling the playing field for employees across Boston. “Implementing paid parental leave is fundamental to addressing income inequality and the gender gap,” she says.
Wu is regarded as a warm and empathetic official who genuinely cares what other people have to say, says Boston City Clerk Maureen Feeney. “She’s just so lovely -- and you don’t often use that word when talking about an elected official.”