Women in State Government 2015

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Executive Branch
Women currently hold 79 statewide elected executive offices, representing 25.3 percent of the 312 available positions—a significant increase from 1971 when women held only 7 percent of such positions. It also represents a slight increase from 2013 and 2014 when women represented 23 percent of state elected offices. It is a decrease, however, from the high point of 1999-2001 when women held 27.6 percent of such offices.1

  • In four states, women currently hold the majority of statewide elected offices: Indiana (five out of seven), Massachusetts (four out of six), Minnesota (three out of five) and Montana (four out of six).
  • In 2015, women hold none of the available statewide elected offices in 12 states.
  • Women currently serve as governor in six states, down from the record of nine women serving as chief executive simultaneously, which was the case from December 2006 – January 2008 and again in January 2009.
  • Women also serve in other high-level state offices: 13 lieutenant governors, nine attorneys general, 14 secretaries of state, seven treasurers, two comptrollers, nine state auditors, nine chief education officials, one commissioner of insurance, one commissioner of labor, and one commissioner of agriculture and commerce.
  • Since Wyoming voters elected the first female governor in 1925, 37 women have served in that role in 27 states.
  • Twenty-three states have never had a female governor. In four states—New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South 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 it is the only state to have had three women in a row to serve as governor.

Legislative Branch
Women currently hold 1,793, or 24.3 percent, of the 7,383 state legislative seats. This includes 439 (22.3 percent) of the 1,972 senate seats and 1,354 (25 percent) of the 5,411 house seats. This percentage represents no change from 2014 and matches the historical high reached in 2009. The percentage of state legislative seats held by women has never surpassed 25 percent nationally.2

  • Vermont (41.1 percent) and Colorado (41 percent) currently have the highest percentage of women in their legislatures. They are followed by Arizona (35.6 percent), Minnesota (33.3 percent), Nevada (33.3 percent), and Washington (33.3 percent). Louisiana has the lowest percentage of female legislators with 11.8 percent.
  • Women currently serve as the president of the senate or president pro tempore in 18 states and speaker of the house in four. 
  • Women of color represent 21.7 percent of female legislators and 5.3 percent of total legislators.
  • There is significant variation in the percentage of female legislators across the country. On average, the 13 states that make up CSG’s western region have the highest percentage at 29.4 percent, followed closely by the 11 states that make up the eastern region with an average of 28.9 percent. The 11 states of the Midwestern region average 24 percent, while the 15 states of the southern region average 18 percent. 

Judicial Branch

  • A 2014 survey found that 5,049 women were serving as state court judges, representing 29 percent of the total 17,156 positions. This is an increase of 528 female judges since 2010, a 12 percent increase.3 
  • Currently, 120 women serve on a state final appellate jurisdiction court (supreme court or its equivalent). This represents 36 percent of the 333 total supreme court judges. 
  • Women hold the majority of seats on the state supreme court or its equivalent in nine states: Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.
  • Nineteen women currently hold the office of chief justice of a state supreme court or its equivalent.

References:

1 Center for American Women and Politics. “Women in Statewide Elective Executive Office 2015.”  Note: Does not include appointed positions, officials elected to executive
posts by the legislature, or elected members of university Boards of Trustees or Boards of Education.
2 Center for American Women and Politics. “Women in State Legislatures 2015.” 
3 National Association of Women Judges. “2014 Representation of United States State Court Women Judges.”
 

Women in State Government 2015