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 again in 2015-2016.

Data from Iowa’s counties was collected in 2015, and 97 of 99 counties chose to participate. This data, which includes key details about seven appointed boards and commissions, shows that:

  • Six counties have achieved gender balance on the seven boards and commissions examined. Those counties are Floyd, Harrison, Ida, Johnson, Scott and Van Buren.
  • Women hold 32.69% of county boards and commission seats.
  • 58.64% of all reported county boards and commissions are gender balanced.
  • Women hold 23.45% of all chair positions.

The Gender Balance Project also encompasses municipal boards and commissions in Iowa’s 200 most populous cities and 99 county seats. This data includes key details about nine appointed boards and commissions. Of the 207 cities asked to provide information, 189 reported their board composition:

  • Thirty-nine cities have achieved gender balance on the nine boards and commissions examined.
  • Women hold 39.66% of city boards and commissions seats.
  • 59.32% of all city boards and commissions reported are gender balanced.
  • Women hold 29.25% of all chair positions.

Katherine Paul, a senior in political science and religious studies, and Matthew Voss, a junior in statistics with minors in political science, economics, mathematics and computer science, are continuing to collect data under the direction of Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor with the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and faculty with the Leadership Studies Program 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).

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