A state can earn up to 30 points for women's representation in the U.S. Congress, 30 points for state executives, 30 points for the state legislature, and 10 points for a total of local executives. The total possible points is 100, and the goal is 50 points for parity. Click below to learn how a state earns points in each category.
Congressional representation is worth 30% of the Gender Parity Index score. Thirty points are divided between the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. A state with six or more representatives in the House could receive as many as 15 points based on the percentage of its House delegation that is made up of women. For example, if a state’s House delegation were half women, then the state would receive 7.5 points (half of 15). The remaining points would be allocated based on how many times women have won in the state’s last four Senate elections. Five points are awarded if a woman won one of the last two elections, and 2.5 are awarded if a woman won one of the two before that. A state like California, where women won all of the last four elections, would receive the full 15 points, whereas a state like Massachusetts, where a woman won only the most recent election, would receive five points.
In order to account for potentially large fluctuations in the percentage of women in U.S. House delegations with fewer than six members, we adjusted how many points these House delegations would be worth in the Gender Parity Index. States with five representatives could earn a total of 14 points for its House delegation and 16 points for its senators, while a state with four representatives could earn a total of 13 points for its House delegation and 17 points for its senators, etc. Then, in states with one or two House Members, we included a point allocation similar to the one used for gubernatorial elections. States receive half the available points for the number of women elected to the House from the state in 2014, and then a quarter each for the 2012 and 2010 elections. For example, a state like Wyoming – where a woman won the single House seat in 2010, 2012, and 2014 – would receive a total of 10 points those elections (5 points for 2014 and 2.5 points each for 2010 and 2012), and would then have 20 points available for its last four Senate elections.
We base 30% of a state’s Gender Parity Index score on its statewide elected executive officials, including the governor. Offices are weighted comparatively based on their importance.
For the single-seat office of governor, we count the last three elections to give ourselves a clearer picture of whether a woman is likely to become governor in the state. If a state’s only statewide elected executive is governor (as is the case in Maine, New Hampshire, and Tennessee), then the last gubernatorial election is worth 15 points and the preceding two are worth 7.5 points each. If a state’s only elected executive other than the governor is the lieutenant governor (as is the case in Alaska, Hawaii, and New Jersey), then a woman winning the most recent gubernatorial election would be worth 12.5 points and the winners from the two preceding gubernatorial elections would be worth 6.25 points each. The remaining five points are divided between the three most recent elections for lieutenant governor – 2.5 points for the most recent election, and 1.25 each for the two preceding elections.
In states with three or more statewide elected executives, 10 points are awarded for electing a woman in the last gubernatorial election, and 5 points are awarded each for electing a woman in the two previous gubernatorial elections. The remaining 10 points are awarded based on the number of women holding non-gubernatorial elected executive positions (even if the person currently holding that office was appointed). Half a point is awarded for each elected superintendent of public instruction and commissioner if the office is single-seat, or to the popularly elected president of a commission if the commission includes multiple commissioners. Commissions with an appointed rather than elected president or chair are excluded from the tally.
The remaining points are allocated for the offices of lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and auditor/comptroller. Points are weighted so that the first three offices are always worth twice as much as the last two. For example, if a state had each of the five positions listed above, but no elected commissioners, then a state would receive 2.5 points for a woman lieutenant governor and 1.25 points for a woman state treasurer.
As state legislatures often serve as a launching pad for men and women who are elected to higher office, they are worth 30% of the Gender Parity Score. Fourteen points each are allocated based on the percentages of seats held by women in the state House and Senate. For example, if a state’s House is comprised of 25% women, then it would receive 3.5 points. A state also earns an additional half-point each for having a woman as House Speaker, Speaker Pro-Tempore, Senate President, or President Pro-Tempore.
Local offices are an important starting point for many aspiring politicians. In order to get a representative snapshot of the state of women’s representation at the local level, we allocated 10 points to local offices in the Gender Parity Score. Six and two-thirds points are allocated based on the percentage of women mayors in all of the state’s cities with populations greater than 30,000 people. Another 3.33 points are allocated according to the proportion of female county commission chairs or executives in the state’s five most populous counties.