Gender Balance Project

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. 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, 2017-2018, 2019-2020, and 2021-2022.

Counties: When data from Iowa’s counties was collected in 2021-2022, 77 of 99 counties provided data or data were available on their website, a decline from 83 in 2019-2020. This data, which includes key details about seven appointed boards and commissions, showed that:

  • Eight counties had achieved gender balance on the seven boards and commissions examined: Bremer, Buchanan, Floyd, Guthrie, Mills, Muscatine, Van Buren, and Winneshiek.
  • Women held 38.16% of seats on county boards and commissions, compared to 33.27% in 2019-2020.
  • The percentage of gender balanced boards was 61.24%.
  • Women held 25.67% of all chair positions.

The 2022 report showed declines in the number of counties with gender balance on all seven boards (from 14 in 2019-2020) and in the percentage of gender balanced boards (down from 67.60% in 2019-2020). The percentage of seats held by women increased by nearly five percent, from 33.27% in 2019-2020. The percentage of women holding chair position was essentially unchanged.

Municipalities: The Gender Balance Project also encompasses municipal boards and commissions in Iowa’s 200 most populous cities and 99 county seats, and 67 of 211 cities provided data for the report, compared to 186 in 2019-2020. Data is collected for nine municipal boards and commissions. The 2022 report showed that:

  • Twelve cities have achieved gender balance on all boards and commissions studied: Adel, Bettendorf, Bondurant, Dallas Center, Davenport, Fairfax, and Fort Dodge.
  • Women make up 42.96% of all reported city board and commission members.
  • 62.26% of all reported city boards and commissions are gender balanced.
  • Women held 32.28% of all reported chair positions.

The percentage of seats held by women and the percentage of women chairs increased slightly from 2019-2020 (40.82% and 30.39% respectively), and the percentage of reported gender balanced boards decreased from 68.99% in 2019-2020.

The most recently published results of the Gender Balance Project for county boards and municipal boards can be found on the Catt Center’s website, as well as a brief on the history of gender balance in Iowa, a list of states with gender balance legislation (PDF), and research surrounding gender balance legislation.

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