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.
As of June 2022, there are 147 (28%) women in Congress: 24 in the Senate and 123 in the House. In 333 statewide elective executive offices, 101 (30%) are either led or co-led by women. Of 7,383 seats in state legislatures, women hold 2,295 (31%). At the local level, 367 (25%) of 1,465 cities are represented by women, and 80 (33%) of the five largest county governments in each state are either led or co-led by women.
And yet, overall progress towards parity is frustratingly incremental in the U.S. In 2022, the average parity score is 24.8. If we round up, this brings us to an average score of 25 out of 100, which means we are halfway to parity. In 2021, the average score was 24.6; two years ago, it was 23.8.
After the last few election cycles, the number of women in office is at a record high. In addition to having the first woman vice president in history, women are represented in executive and legislative office at unprecedented levels. However, evaluating the status of women’s representation in terms of “records” is misleading because the baseline for women’s representation has been low historically. Incremental victories may break records, but they do not significantly advance progress towards parity.
Progress towards gender-balanced governance is dangerously slow in the United States. Even as we celebrate new records for women candidates in 2022, most U.S. elections remain structurally biased and fundamentally uncompetitive, limiting opportunities for women to succeed. When women are underrepresented in politics, laws go into effect against the will of the majority.
A thriving, representative democracy will remain far from reach until we enable more women to run, win, serve, and lead. No single reform will reset the course of American democracy on its own, but systems strategies that level the playing field are needed for the U.S. to achieve gender-balanced governance in our lifetimes.
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