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.
In January 2021, Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President of the United States. Twelve women have since advanced into top leadership roles in President Biden's Cabinet. A record number of women were sworn in to serve the 117th Congress. More women are being appointed and elected to state executive offices. Women hold almost a third of all seats in state legislatures. And the number of Black women leading major US cities has reached an all-time high.
And yet, overall progress towards parity in the US remains frustratingly incremental. In 2021, the average Gender Parity Score is 24.63. If we round up, this brings us to an average score of 25 out of 100, which means we are halfway to parity. In 2020, the average score was 23.85 (24 out of 100); in 2019, the average score was 23.23 (23 out of 100). 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 serves as a reminder of how incremental progress has been over the past century.