In August 2013, RepresentWomen launched the Gender Parity Index (GPI) to help researchers and advocates track progress toward gender-balanced governance and identify opportunities for increasing women’s political representation in the U.S. Each year, we assign all 50 states a Gender Parity Score, letter grade, and ranking according to their proximity to parity. One of the key takeaways from this exercise is that progress toward gender balance is slower and less stable than it first appears.
In the first Gender Parity Index, 40 states earned a “D” grade (< 25.0) or worse (< 10.0); the remaining ten states were split evenly between “Cs” (< 33.0) and “Bs” (< 50.0), and no state achieved an “A” (50.0 and above). Ten years later, Maine and Oregon have both achieved an “A” for the first time, 24 states are split evenly between “Bs” and “Cs,” 23 states have earned a “D,” and Louisiana is the only failing state.
The 2023 Index reflects recent record-breaking progress for women in the U.S. government, particularly state executives. Following the 2022 elections, 12 states have women governors, breaking the previous record of nine. Correspondingly, six of the top ten states in the 2023 GPI have women governors, including Maine (1st), Oregon (2nd), Michigan (3rd), New Mexico (4th), Iowa (7th), and Massachusetts (9th).
While it is true that women’s representation has increased, the 2023 GPI shows that women are still underrepresented at every level of government in the U.S., holding just one-third of all elected positions, despite comprising over 50% of the population. Women of color are further underrepresented, holding approximately one-tenth of all elected positions. This year’s GPI further shows that:
- Record-breaking wins have resulted in incremental gains for women. Headlines that announce record highs for women in politics are often misleading; women remain underrepresented at every level of government. Net gains for women are generally smaller than they appear, slowing progress.
Not every state is on an upward trajectory toward parity; some states, such as New Hampshire and Louisiana, have even lost progress over time.
- New Hampshire ranked first and achieved an “A” between 2015-2018 and again in 2020; it now ranks 10th with a score of 41/100 (grade: B).
- Louisiana ranked 28th in the first GPI with a score of 16/100 (grade: D); it now has a score of 9/100 (grade: F) and ranks 50th in the 2023 GPI.
- Gains for women are concentrated in the Northeast and West Coast, while women’s representation in Midwestern and Southern states lags far behind.
- Democratic women are outpacing Republican women in elected office, suggesting that progress toward parity will eventually slow unless a) more Republican women are elected or b) more Democratic women than men are elected.
- Systemic reform is needed to level the playing field and create more opportunities for women to enter and remain in office. Rather than replace existing candidate-focused strategies, systemic reforms can function in a complementary manner to bring out the best of both strategies.