By Sian Rigby on October 15, 2015
By Sian Rigby on October 15, 2015

RELEASE DATE: October 15, 2015

CONTACT: Cynthia Terrell (301) 270-4616 or cynthia@representation2020.com

 

New Report: Parity out of Reach for Women in Elected Office,

Mississippi Ranks Last on Gender Parity Index Measuring Women’s Political Representation, New Hampshire ranks first, United States lags worldwide

 

Takoma Park, MD—Representation20/20 has released its latest analysis on the underrepresentation of women in elected office and the Gender Parity Index scores for all 50 states, with New Hampshire ranking first and Mississippi ranking last in women’s political representation. The report, The State of Women’s Representation 2015-2016, finds that women are underrepresented at the national, state, and local level, and that parity for men and women in elected office is unlikely to occur without structural changes in recruitment practices, electoral methods, and legislative rules.
 
Women are underrepresented in elected office at all levels.
  • The United States ranks 95th out of 190 countries in national legislative representation of women— a steep decline since 2000.
  • Women hold 19.4% of congressional seats.
  • Women represent 24.3% of state legislative seats—a slight decline since 2012.
  • Very few women hold state or municipal executive positions. Only six governors are women and only 18% of mayors are women in our 100 largest cities.

Gender Parity Index Highlights Regional Disparities

The report measures women’s representation in each of the 50 states using a comprehensive Gender Parity Index, which calculates gender parity by scoring women’s representation at the national, state,and local level. A score of 0 would indicate an absence women in elected office, while a score of 50 would indicate that men and women are equally represented in elected office.
The 2015 report reveals Mississippi ranks last with a Parity Index Score of 7.0. In fact, many low-ranking states are clustered in the South, with 6 of the 10 states with the lowest Gender Parity Index are in the lower half of the nation (Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia). In contrast, the Northeast and West lead the country in women’s representation, with 9 of the 10 highest-scoring states grouped in either New England or the West Coast (New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, California, Hawaii, Arizona and New Mexico). New Hampshire, leads the country with a Parity Index Score of 57.0—the first and only state to ever send an all-female delegation to Congress in 2014. New Hampshire also became the first-ever state to achieve gender parity.

A Long Path to Parity

Despite 2014 being hailed as the “Year of Women” and other purported gains in women’s political representation, no state legislative chambers have reached parity. This report reveals the entrenched institutional barriers that continue to stunt women’s gains in elected office at all levels. If progress continues at such a glacial pace, the report finds that women in the United States will not reach political parity, not in our lifetimes, nor those of our grandchildren, not ever.
“I believe that the time is ripe,” notes Cynthia Terrell, Representation20/20 founder and chair, “for our generation’s call for gender parity to be answered with bold, innovative, structural solutions.” Terrell emphasizes that to achieve meaningful gains in women’s representation, parties, PACs, legislators,and voters must commit to the structural reforms outlined in The State of Women’s Representation 2015.
 

Fair Representation is Key

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a majority of the top 20 countries for gender parity(where women represent 38% or more of the members) use multi-winner districts and proportional representation. The key to fair representation in U.S. government is addressing single-winner plurality districts and their negative impact on women and communities of color. “We need to promote a fair system,” writes Marie Wilson in the Report’s foreword, “that makes our government truly representative of the people and harnesses the skills of the best and brightest in our communities.” The 2015 report highlights the benefits of the U.S. shifting to multi-winner districts with ranked choice voting.
The report stresses the importance of structural reform to achieve real progress towards gender parity within our lifetimes and outlines three critical structural changes to achieve gender parity:
  1. Push political parties and PACs to set targets for the number of women candidates recruited and funded, 
  2. Adopt fair representation voting systems to increase the number of women running for and being elected to public office, and
  3. Reform legislative practices to support family responsibilities and create leadership opportunities for women.
 
A full copy of the report can be downloaded at Representation2020.com
 
For more information on this report, please contact Cynthia Terrell at (301) 270-4616.
Representation 2020 is a project of FairVote, a non-partisan nonprofit organization focused on electoral reform.

 

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