To quantify progress towards gender parity in elected and appointed office, RepresentWomen developed the Gender Parity Index (GPI). Each year, a Gender Parity Score and grade is calculated for each of the 50 states and for the United States as a whole. The Gender Parity Score reflects women's recent electoral successes at the local, state, and national levels on a scale of 0 (if no women were elected to any offices) to 100 (if women held all elected offices). The key advantage of the GPI is that it enables comparisons to be made over time and among states.
Over the past 100 years, women have crossed a series of major milestones on the path to parity. And in 2020, more women have filed to run for office than ever before. But, we need to keep these achievements in perspective.
Depending on how familiar you were with our 2019 map, you may notice that very little has changed between the 2019 and 2020 indexes. Of the four states that have new grades this year: Montana has moved down from a "D" to an "F," Colorado - which has teetered between "C" and "D" over the last few years - is back to being a "D"-ranked state, Kansas has moved up in our rankings and is now a "C" ranked state, and after a year ranked as a "B" New Hampshire moved back up to an "A" ranking, New Hampshire remains the only state to achieve an "A" ranking since RepresentWomen started the Gender Parity Index in 2014.
Overall, the changes between 2019 and 2020 are subtle. The average Gender Parity Score in 2020 is now much closer to 24 at 23.55. In 2019, states scored an average of 23.23 out of 100. Just as was the case in 2019, no states are at parity in 2020.
Despite the many achievements made by women after the 2018 midterm elections, our 2019 Gender Parity Index Report found that women are underrepresented at the national, state, and local levels of government and that parity for men and women in elected office is unlikely to occur without structural changes in recruitment, electoral, and legislative rules.
“While there were some gains for women this election cycle- especially women of color, we are still very far from gender parity in government. We need a reference point to see what strategies are working to elect more women, and this index provides that baseline."
- Cynthia Richie Terrell, RepresentWomen Founder and Executive Director
While the full text of the 2020 Gender Parity Index is still forthcoming, we have opted to release some of our analysis early, as we are drawing closer to Election Day 2020. Since the Gender Parity Score awards the highest point values to states that have elected women to Congress, it's not unusual for the scores to remain stable between election years (toggle between the 2017 and 2018 maps, for example).
However, the 2020 Gender Parity Index still serves its core purpose of providing a gentle "reality check" to any who still hope that the outcomes of individual races will be sufficient to change our current course for gender equality. Because even with the addition of a new woman Senator at the start of 2020, Georgia is still far from reaching gender parity.
As we noted in the 2019 Gender Parity Index, progress towards parity remains uneven across geography, race, party, and age. Today, women hold just over a quarter of all available seats in government, from national and state-level offices to major local-level offices.
Over the last several decades, advocates in the United States have focused on building a pipeline of women in elected office by preparing individual women to run. As important as this work is, it won't work on its own. The fact that we are still celebrating candidate firsts for women in 2020, the year of the Suffrage Centennial, serves as a reminder of how incremental progress has been over the past century.