Iowa women decrease in federal representation

CATEGORIES: January 2023, Voices

Iowa sent two women back to the U.S. House of Representatives this month, down one from the previous delegation due to Rep. Cindy Axne’s loss in the Nov. 8 general election. At the state level, the 90th General Assembly of the Iowa legislature will again include 44 women, down from the record high of 45 women in the 88th General Assembly.

In Washington, DC, Rep. Ashley Hinson and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks are joined by Sen. Joni Ernst, who was not up for re-election in November, as well as Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Randy Feenstra, who both won re-election, and Rep. Zach Nunn, who won the seat previously held by Axne.

Hinson and Miller-Meeks, both Republicans, will continue to represent Iowa’s 1st and 2nd districts in the U.S. House. Redistricting following the 2020 Census led to changes in the boundaries between their districts and also flipped the district numbers, with Hinson now in District 2 and Miller-Meeks in District 1. Hinson defeated state senator Liz Mathis with 54% percent of the votes, and Miller-Meeks defeated state representative Christina Bohannan with 53.3% of the votes.

In 2022, a record 40% of state legislative candidates were women, compared to 35.32% in 2018. Women candidates in open seat races won at a higher rate than in 2020 (46.67% versus 38.46%), but fared slightly worse in incumbent and challenging races (87.5% versus 88.89% and 8.7% versus 11.76%, respectively). Mirroring trends with male candidates, Republican women candidates in Iowa fared better overall than Democratic women candidates, with 79.31% of Republican women candidates winning their races and 40.38% of Democratic women candidates winning their races. The 2023 legislature includes 44 women (15 senators, 29 representatives).

“While progress has been made in the state legislature over the years, we have seen a small downward trend in the representation of women in Iowa since the record high set in the 2018 election,” said Carrie Ann Johnson, interim coordinator of research and outreach at the Catt Center. “However, for the first time in Iowa history, we will see an all-female leadership team in the state legislature.”

The Democratic Party’s minority leadership in the Iowa House is all women—Jennifer Konfrst as minority leader; Lindsay James as minority whip; and Sue Cahill, Heather Matson, Amy Nielsen and Sharon Steckman as assistant minority leaders – the first time this has occurred for either party.

Catt Center research on the gender balance of municipal and county boards and commissions in Iowa also shows changes in women’s representation for these appointed positions.

Although the percentage of seats on county boards held by women increased by nearly five percent, from 33.27% in 2019-2020 to 38.16% in 2021-2022, the 2022 report showed declines in the number of counties with gender balance on all seven boards surveyed (from 14 in 2019-2020 to eight in 2021-2022) and in the percentage of gender-balanced boards (down from 67.60% in 2019-2020 to 61.24% in 2021-2022).

On municipal boards, the percentage of seats held by women and the percentage of women chairs increased slightly from 2019-2020 to 2021-2022 (40.82% to 42.96% and 30.39% to 32.28% respectively), but the percentage of reported gender-balanced boards decreased from 68.99% in 2019-2020 to 62.26%.

For the latest data on women’s representation in Iowa politics – in both elected office and appointments to boards and commissions – visit the Catt Center’s website.

“I’d like to see 50% of our candidates for elective office be women, and the Catt Center will continue to train women to run for office with our Ready to Run® Iowa campaign training program,” said Johnson. “We’d also like to encourage better compliance with Iowa’s gender balance law, and so Ready to Run Iowa also includes workshops on how to position yourself for appointment to a board or commission.”

The 2023 Ready to Run Iowa program will consist of six workshops held over three Fridays in February, March, and April. The February and March workshops, which will be held virtually, will cover ways to get involved in Iowa politics, deciding to run, campaign fundraising and launching a campaign.

The April workshop will be held in person at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens and will cover communicating a campaign message and traditional and social media best practices. Between the morning and afternoon workshops, participants can network over lunch at the gardens.

Visit the Ready to Run Iowa webpage for the 2023 workshop schedule. Registration is required but free for the February and March virtual workshops. The $25 registration fee for each of the April workshops covers lunch and refreshments and is waived for Iowa State students. Registration for the Feb. 24 workshops opens on Jan. 24.