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Report: 2023 Gender Parity Index

Executive Summary

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. 

2023 Report

Brief: Impact Analysis of NYC's Woman Majority Council

In the 2021 ranked choice voting primary elections, women in New York City made history, securing a majority on the city council. Two years later, RepresentWomen sought to uncover the impact of a woman majority council, as well as which barriers persist despite these women being in office.

The questions we sought to answer include:

  1. What are the primary benefits of having a woman majority council? More specifically, who benefits from a woman majority and why?
  2. What challenges and barriers remain, despite a woman majority, and what needs to be done to sustain a gender-balanced council?
  3. Which legislation passed by women in the past session is most notable and why? Does this notable legislation disproportionately impact women?
  4. Why were women essential in getting these issues to the table? Would these issues have been addressed otherwise?

Our research found that a woman of color majority council had a significant impact on both women’s issues, such as maternal health, menstrual equity, childcare access, and reproductive rights, as well as gender-neutral issues, such as ensuring salary transparency, language access and cost-of-living adjustments for all New Yorkers. Having women in leadership positions as well as a built-in majority on the Women’s Caucus were both instrumental in creating this impact. 

In sum, the impact of a woman majority city council includes: 

  1. Women in leadership positions create a ripple effect, enabling women to uplift one another and reducing bias across the council.
  2. Diversity on the council leads to a shift in priorities; Since the majority women of color council better mirrors the demographics of the city, this allows for a wider variety of issues to be brought to the table. 
  3. A larger Women’s Caucus has become more legislatively efficient, particularly regarding reproductive rights and maternal healthcare. With a built-in majority, the women don’t have to fight to explain why these issues are essential. 
  4. Structural barriers persist, impacting the woman council members' day-to-day work. With dated buildings and protocols, women face barriers that are unique and more pervasive than for their men counterparts.

All New Yorkers benefit from a diverse council. The council’s shared lived experiences with their constituents, different legislative perspectives, and representation of their communities make its members prone to collaborate, understand one another, and support each other to serve both their districts and the city as a whole.

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Memo: International Voting Systems


Women’s political representation is vital to sustaining good governance worldwide. But while women comprise over half of the world’s population, men still hold the majority of seats in almost every legislature. Research has shown that diversity in political representation leads to more inclusive and effective lawmaking. Women, in particular, bring different forms of consensus building and attention to various policy issues, including but not limited to “women’s issues” such as healthcare, childcare, and education. This means that political processes and outcomes suffer when women are excluded from office.

RepresentWomen has been studying the relationship between voting systems and women’s political representation for the last five years. Through our research, we have found that voting systems shape opportunities for women to enter politics. In both the United States and around the world, cases like New York City, South Africa, and New Zealand further demonstrate the viability of major system changes and the potential impact of adopting a new voting system.

The following memo presents an update to our analysis of voting systems globally, their impact on women’s representation, and the case for proportional ranked choice voting in the United States. Where appropriate, we also discuss the role of complementary candidate-focused strategies and initiatives, such as gender quotas and candidate recruitment groups.

The goal of this memo is to equip our partners in the U.S. with updated data and supporting literature on the impact of proportional representation (PR) on women’s representation, drawing from stories of how PR improved women’s representation in the United States (1910s-1940s), South Africa (1990s-today), and New Zealand (1990s-today). This memo further builds the case for proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV) in the U.S., pushing back on recent efforts to introduce non-viable forms of PR. Previous research releases on this topic: 2020, 2019, 2018


Voting systems inform how ballots are designed, how people cast their votes, how the results are counted, and how the winners are determined. The type of voting system used can greatly impact voter turnout, the role of political parties, candidate engagement, and representation. While there are many kinds of voting systems used around the world, there are three basic types: 


  • Plurality-Majority (Non-PR): Non-proportional systems allow the candidate with the most votes to be declared the winner. In plurality systems, a candidate can win with less than 50% of the vote; in majority systems, a runoff ensues if a candidate does not receive at least 50% of the vote.
  • Proportional Representation (PR): In a proportional system, seats are allocated to parties in proportion to the total number of votes received. PR is used around the world in various forms; New Zealand uses a mixed member proportional system (MMP), South Africa uses a party list system, and several cities in the U.S. use proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV).
  • Semi-Proportional (Semi-PR): Semi-proportional systems combine elements of non-PR and PR systems. Semi-PR systems are often more representative than non-PR systems because they ensure that political minorities are at least somewhat represented. 

According to our research, women’s representation is lower in countries with plurality-majority systems because plurality systems reinforce existing barriers for women in politics; when a candidate only needs a plurality to win, political parties and donors are more likely to back “establishment” candidates (often white men) to improve their odds. Plurality voting also limits competition against incumbents and encourages negative campaigning, potentially deterring women from running in the first place. 

Proportional representation (PR) yields the best opportunities for women. Unlike plurality systems, where a single candidate–and party–wins the district, multiple winners are elected to represent a single district in PR systems, and multiple political parties may be represented at a time. In addition to creating more opportunities for political minorities to be represented, PR systems tend to create more diverse legislatures, with more women and people of color nominated and elected. Overall, PR is the best way to ensure full and fair representation. 

With the support of women’s organizations like the National League of Women Voters, PRCV was first adopted in the United States during the Progressive Era, leading to the milestone elections of women and people of color in cities like New York City. Though few original cities use the system today, a new wave of cities are now looking to adopt PRCV. Based on our research, RepresentWomen supports the adoption of PRCV over other forms of PR in the United States. In addition to being the only form of PR with a history of use in the U.S., it is also the only form of PR that is suited for nonpartisan elections, which are held in two-thirds of American cities.

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Dashboard: Ranked Choice Voting and Women's Representation in the U.S.

In 2022, we released an interactive dashboard to present the latest data on women's representation in ranked choice cities. In addition to providing summary data on where ranked choice voting (RCV) is used and its impact on local representation, the RCV Dashboard includes updated case studies on the impact of ranked voting on women's representation in Cambridge, New York City, the Bay Area, and Utah.

For more information about RCV and its impact on women's representation, check out our 2023 Ranked Choice Voting Memo.

infogram_0_f45a9b75-7958-4bcd-b51b-adb30abd22e42022 RCV Dashboard

Updated: January 2023


Memo: Ranked Choice Voting and Women's Representation

The following memo presents an update to our 2020 analysis of voting systems in the U.S. and their impact on women’s representation. 

Overall, we have found that women continue to fare better in jurisdictions that use ranked choice voting than in cities with plurality voting systems. Of the 30 cities that use ranked choice voting to elect their executives (mayors), 12 (40%) are currently represented by women. In the 41 cities that use ranked choice voting to elect their legislatures (councils, boards), almost half of all electeds (137 of 282, or 49%) are women.

RCV remains one of the most promising tools for advancing women’s representation in the United States.

For more information about our work and the resources we provide, please contact our team at [email protected].

Released: January 23, 2023

Executive Summary: 

RCV is one of the most promising tools for advancing women’s representation in the United States.  Of the 30 cities that use ranked choice voting to elect their executives (mayors), 12 (40%) are currently represented by women. In the 41 cities that use ranked choice voting to elect their legislatures (councils, boards), almost half of all electeds (137 of 282, or 49%) are women. 

Systems-level strategies, like RCV, advance gender parity by creating a level playing field for all candidates and eliminating the opportunity barriers that exist under plurality voting. Though women are underrepresented at every level of government in the U.S., holding less than one-third of all elected positions, women in ranked choice jurisdictions are better represented.  

Ranked Choice Voting creates more opportunities for women to run and win by:

  1. Mitigating vote splitting and the spoiler effect. Women, more often than men, are told to “wait their turn” and are viewed as less electable by party leaders in plurality elections. In RCV elections, multiple women can run without splitting the vote and spoiling an election. 
  2. Increasing campaign civility. Positive campaigning benefits both candidates and voters. When candidates are less focused on launching or defending negative attacks from competitors, they can spend more time campaigning on issues that matter to voters to earn broader support. 
  3. Removing a need for costly runoff elections. Runoffs are often expensive and lead to lower voter turnout. RCV mitigates this by acting as an “instant runoff” where voters’ second and third choices are counted immediately. For women candidates, who often need to outraise men to win, RCV helps them focus on what matters most: connecting with voters.
  4. Increasing candidate-voter engagement and voter turnout. In RCV, candidates are incentivized to seek broader support in the form of first-, second-, and third-choice votes. This approach results in voters feeling they have more of a stake in the election, boosting turnout. 

Ranked choice voting advances women’s representation at the state and city level: 

Women’s Representation in RCV Cities

The impact of RCV on women’s representation is best demonstrated at the local level, which has long been the testing ground for new voting systems. Of the 30 mayors in RCV cities today, 12 (40%) are women, nine are people of color (30%), and four are women of color (13%). In city councils, 137 of 282 RCV seats (49%) are held by women, 96 by people of color (34%), and 55 (20%) by women of color. Comparatively, women held 32% of all local offices as of March 2022. 

Women’s Representation in RCV States

RCV is currently used at the state-level in two states, Maine and Alaska. Maine became the first state to use ranked choice voting in 2018. That same year, Janet Mills became the first woman governor of Maine and first governor elected by ranked choice voting following the state’s first ranked choice primary. In other statewide offices, there was a 6.4% increase in women candidates and 9.3% increase in women winners from the 2014/16 non-RCV elections to the 2018/20 RCV elections. Correspondingly, Maine’s parity score in our annual Gender Parity Index has steadily risen since RCV was first introduced. Alaska’s first use of RCV took place in 2022.

View the Memo 

Snapshot: Mayors in RCV Cities

Ranked choice voting has positive impacts for women's representation in politics; this snapshot displays women's representation in cities that have implemented RCV as of January 2023. Twelve of 30 cities (40%) have women mayors. Read more about RCV and women's representation in our 2023 memo here

infogram_0_9ff3aa29-63a3-4518-b385-3c40b74bfc0b2023 RCV Mayors Snapshot - Gender

Snapshot: Women on RCV City Councils

Ranked choice voting has positive impacts for women's representation in politics; this snapshot displays women's representation in cities that have implemented RCV as of January 2023. When looking at the totality of RCV-elected council members, women consist of just under 50%. Read more about RCV and women's representation in our 2023 memo here

infogram_0_2d513270-39fe-4482-a77d-f5e1fd3f88942023 RCV Council Snapshot - Gender

Report: The Twin-Track Ecosystem in the 100 Largest Cities

Released: November 2022

In 2022, we released a follow-up to our report on women's representation in New York City, “Why Women Won in 2021.” In the report, we expand upon and re-evaluate our findings by researching 1) women’s representation in the next-largest cities in the U.S., and 2) which of the factors we observed in NYC are also present in these cities. The report concludes with a list of guiding takeaways,  aimed at changemakers interested in bringing the best practices and strategies that worked in New York City to other major cities. 

The Four Factors

Four conditions were uniquely met in New York, and thus examined in the next 100 largest cities. These were the presence of: (1) term limits, (2) public financing, (3) ranked choice voting, and (4) candidate organizations. Including NYC, 52% of the cities meet at least one of the four conditions.

Where Next?

Including NYC, 27 of the top 100 cities have councils majority-led (50% +1) by women and an additional 13 cities are at parity with women holding 50% of all seats. Just one city other than NYC has all four of the systems-focused and candidate-focused factors that make up the twin-track ecosystem: San Francisco. Four cities have two of the four factors we traced: Oakland, Denver, Long Beach, and Los Angeles.


Key Question: How many cities have more than one of the factors covered by the twin-track ecosystem?

City, State





Percent Women

Term Limits

Matching Funds

Ranked Choice Voting

Local Women's Candidate Orgs

New York City, NY








San Francisco, CA








Oakland, CA








Denver, CO







Long Beach, CA







Los Angeles, CA








Our recommendations for “where next” are split between four cities. Depending on whether our partners are more interested in 1) achieving gender balance where it is lacking, or 2) sustaining current levels of women’s representation where it exists, our suggested target cities change. 

Our first option suggests focussing on Los Angeles and San Francisco. In Los Angeles, there is an opportunity for RCV and a local WCG to be introduced. Though San Francisco technically already has all four twin-track factors, there is room for building on the existing infrastructure to ensure that more women run viable campaigns in each election.

Our second option suggests focus should be on Denver, and Long Beach. Many cities in the top 100 have small city councils, showing there are clear opportunities to invest in better systems and candidate support infrastructure in all parts of the country. Per our initial analysis, these two cities would benefit from ranked choice voting and local WCGs. Since both have small councils and term limits, women’s representation is likely to fluctuate in the future without additional support.

Key Takeaways

  • A twin-track approach creates viable, local-level opportunities for women. A twin-track approach is the best way to achieve gender balance in our lifetimes. Moreover, both tracks must be multidimensional in depth. The candidate track must go beyond recruitment, and the systems track must involve efficient implementation and education. 
  • The results of the twin-track approach will inevitably vary in every city. Political environments and agendas, the role of local media, the rate of pay for officeholders, and other factors are not consistent across the U.S. But, even if the magnitude of the results are different, the components within the twin-track approach have proven to be beneficial and merit implementation. 
  • Actualizing the twin-track approach requires increased financial support. Gratuitous support from local community members can be effective but is not sustainable. In order to maintain training programs, host voter education initiatives, and provide endorsed candidates with additional funding, women's candidate groups need the help of philanthropists, changemakers, and partner organizations alike. 


View the Report 

Report: Why Women Won in 2021

Released: September 2022

In 2022, we released a report on the outcome of the 2021 elections in New York City. RepresentWomen partnered with The New Majority NYC (formerly 21 in '21) to study 1) the impact of term limits, matching funds, ranked choice voting, and candidate-focused strategies on women's representation, 2) how these factors worked together to bring NYC a majority-women council for the first time in history, and 3) what it will take to maintain and build upon this success story in the future. 

View the Report Executive Summary

Report: 2022 Gender Parity Index

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. 

The 2022 Gender Parity Index

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.

2022 Report Methodology Score Chart State-by-State Graphics