Women in State Government

While women continue to make gains in terms of their participation in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of state government, more progress is needed before they will reach parity with their male counterparts.


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Executive Branch

  • Women hold 72 statewide elective executive offices, representing 22.9 percent of the 315 available positions, a significant increase from 1971, when only 7 percent of such positions were held by women. It is a decrease, however, from the high point of 1999-2001, when women held 27.6 percent of such offices.1
  • Women currently sit in the governor’s office of six states, down from the record of nine women serving as chief executive simultaneously, which has happened on two different occasions. Women also serve in other high-level state offices: nine lieutenant governors, four attorneys general, 12 secretaries of state, 10 treasurers, four comptrollers, eight state auditors, five chief education officials and three commissioners of insurance.1
  • Twenty-seven states have never had a female governor. In three states—Hawaii, Michigan and North Carolina—the current governor is the first woman to serve in that office in state history.
  • Arizona has had the most female governors with four, and is the first state to have three women in a row serve as governor.

Legislative Branch

  • Women currently hold 1,806, or 24.5 percent, of the 7,382 state legislative seats, including 434 (22 percent) of the 1,971 senate seats and 1,372 (25 percent) of the 5,411 house seats. This percentage has increased by less than 4 percentage points in the past 15 years.2
  • New Hampshire currently has the highest percentage of women in its legislature with 37.5 percent, with Vermont (37.2 percent) and Colorado (37 percent) close behind, while South Carolina has the lowest with 10 percent. 2
  • Women currently serve as either the speaker of the House or senate president in eight states–Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island. In New Hampshire and Maine, women currently lead both legislative houses.2
  • The New Hampshire Senate is the first legislative chamber ever to have a majority of female members. Thirteen of the 24 state senators are women.2

Judicial Branch

  • Currently, 4,521 women serve as state court judges, representing 26.4 percent of the total 17,108 positions.3
  • This includes 111 women who serve on a state final appellate jurisdiction court (supreme court or its equivalent), up from 14 in 1980 and 51 in 1995. This represents 31 percent of the 359 total supreme court judges.3 Women hold the majority of seats on the state supreme court or its equivalent in three states: Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin.3
  • Seventeen women currently hold the office of chief justice of a state supreme court or its equivalent.4


1. Center for American Women in Politics. “Statewide Elective Executive Women: 2010.” May 2010.
2. Center for American Women in Politics. “Women in State Legislatures: 2010.” June 2010.
3. National Association of Women Judges. “2010 Representation of United States State Court Women Judges.”
4. National Conference of Chief Justices. “Membership Roster.”