Gender Balance Project

The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics has been examining the membership of appointed county and municipal boards and commissions in Iowa.

Since 1987, gender balance has been required by law on Iowa’s state-level boards and commissions. In 2009, the Iowa Legislature extended this requirement to counties and cities effective Jan. 1, 2012. This research – titled the Gender Balance Project – aims to understand the extent to which gender balance has been achieved on county and city boards in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Data were collected first in 2012-2013, and then again in 2015-2016 and 2017-2018.

Data from Iowa’s counties was collected in the fall 2017 and spring of 2018, and 92 of 99 counties chose to participate. This data, which includes key details about seven appointed boards and commissions, shows that:

  • Four counties have achieved gender balance on the seven boards and commissions examined. Those counties are Harrison, Jasper, Scott and Winneshiek.
  • Women hold 34.21% of county boards and commission seats.
  • 58.92% of all reported county boards and commissions are gender balanced.
  • Women hold 23.94% of all chair positions.

Significant gains were made between the first (2012-2013) and second (2015-2016) data collections, with the percent of gender balanced boards increasing from 49.53% to 58.64% and the percent of seats held by women increasing from 29.29% to 33.03%. Gains were much smaller in 2018; gender balanced boards increased 0.28% and the number of women increased 1.18%.

The Gender Balance Project also encompasses municipal boards and commissions in Iowa’s 200 most populous cities and 99 county seats.

Arin Johnson, a sophomore in criminal justice studies, and Isabella Rojas, a senior in political science, are continuing to collect data under the direction of Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor with the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and coordinator of research and outreach for the Catt Center. The most recently published results of the Gender Balance Project for county boards (PDF) and municipal boards (PDF) can be found on the Catt Center’s website, as well as a list of states with gender balance legislation (PDF). You can also read research surrounding gender balance legislation.

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