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. Reports of the 2021-2022 are still being compiled and will be available soon.

When data from Iowa’s counties was collected in fall 2019 and spring 2020, 83 of 99 counties chose to participate. This data, which includes key details about seven appointed boards and commissions, showed that:

  • Fourteen counties had achieved gender balance on the seven boards and commissions examined. Those counties were Allamakee, Clayton, Dallas, Floyd, Guthrie, Hardin, Harrison, Lee, Madison, Ringgold, Story, Van Buren, Wapello, and Winneshiek.
  • Women held 33.27% of county boards and commission seats.
  • 67.60% of all reported county boards and commissions were gender balanced.
  • Women held 25.81% of all chair positions.

The 2020 report showed significant gains in the percent of gender balanced boards, which increased from 58.92% in 2018 to 67.60% in 2020. Gains in the percent of seats held by women increased only slightly from 32.21% in 2018 to 33.27% in 2020.

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

  • 33 cities had achieved gender balance on the nine boards and commissions examined.
  • Women held 40.82% of city board and commission seats.
  • 68.99% of all reported city boards and commissions were gender balanced.
  • Women held 30.39% of all chair positions.

Unfortunately, the percent of seats held by women decreased slightly from 41.13% in 2018 to 40.82% in 2020. However, gains were made in the percent of gender balanced boards, which increased from 63% in 2028 to 68.99% in 2020.

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.


Visit the Iowa Talent Bank, which strives to pair individuals interested in governmental roles with city, county, and state governments looking for those willing to serve.