Women in State Government: 2011 Update

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.


  Download the Excel Version of the Table: "Women in State Government (April 2011)"
Executive Branch
  • Women hold 69 statewide elective executive offices, representing 21.8 percent of the 317 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, and a slight decrease from the 22.9 percent in 2010.1
  • 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—from December 2006 to January 2008, and in January 2009. Women also serve in other high-level state offices: 11 lieutenant governors, seven attorneys general, 11 secretaries of state, six treasurers, four comptrollers, seven state auditors, five chief education officials and three commissioners of insurance.1
  • Twenty-four states have never had a female governor. In four states—New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, 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 is the first state to have three women in a row serve as governor.
Legislative Branch
  • Women currently hold 1,739, or 23.5 percent, of the 7,382 state legislative seats. That includes 425 (21.6 percent) of the 1,971 senate seats and 1,313 (24.3 percent) of the 5,411 house seats. This represents a decline of 1 percentage point from 2010, and an increase of less than 3 percentage points since 1995.2
  • Colorado currently has the highest percentage of women in its legislature with 41 percent, with Vermont (38.9 percent), Arizona (34.4 percent) and Hawaii (34.2 percent) close behind. South Carolina has the lowest percentage of female legislators with 9.4 percent.2
  • Women currently serve as either the speaker of the house or senate president in five states–Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Utah.2
  • Women of color represent 20.1 percent of female legislators, and 4.7 percent of total legislators.2
Judicial Branch
  • A 2010 survey found that 4,521 women were serving as state court judges, representing 26.4 percent of the total 17,108 positions.3
  • Currently, 105 women serve on a state final appellate jurisdiction court (supreme court or its equivalent), up from 14 in 1980 and 51 in 1995. This represents 29 percent of the 359 total supreme court judges. Women hold the majority of seats on the state supreme court or its equivalent in five states: California, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
  • Twenty-one women currently hold the office of chief justice of a state supreme court or its equivalent.
1 Center for American Women in Politics. “Statewide Elective Executive Women 2011.” March 2011. 
2 Center for American Women in Politics. “Women in State Legislatures 2011.” April 2011.
3 National Association of Women Judges. “2010 Representation of United States State Court Women Judges.” 
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