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Little Progress for Women in State Leadership Positions According to UAlbany's Center for Women in Government & Civil Society
Arizona, Nevada top national rankings, Mississippi, Kentucky trail

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 15, 2006) -- Women remain significantly underrepresented in state government leadership positions, according to a new study by the University at Albany's Center for Women in Government and Civil Society. Across the country, women's share of the highest elected and appointed offices in state government increased only slightly -- 1.6 percentage points -- over an eight-year period. Women in State Policy Leadership, 1998 - 2005: An Analysis of Slow and Uneven Progress reports that between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of women in state government leadership positions increased from 23.1 percent to 24.7 percent. These positions include: statewide elected officials, state legislators, high court judges, department heads, and governor's office top advisors.

"The growth trend for women in top leadership posts is abysmally slow," said Judith R. Saidel, director of the center and lead author of the report. "We found that in 40 percent of the states, there was either no significant growth or women's overall share of posts actually fell. In the states where there were gains, most were relatively modest."

Women continue to do best in the executive branch, with 32.2 percent of overall positions. The greatest gain in the last eight years occurred in the judicial branch, however, where women went from 22.0 to 27.7 percent, or a 5.7 percentage point gain. Nationwide, 15 women are now chief justices of the state's highest court.

Progress was slowest in the legislative branch, where women account for only 22.6 percent of posts, up from 21.8 percent in 1998.

Other findings:

  • Arizona tops list with 38.6 percent of women in top posts, followed by Nevada (2), Vermont (3), Washington (4) and New Mexico (5).

  • Mississippi ranks 50th, with only 12.9 percent of women in top posts, trailing Kentucky (49), South Carolina (48), Pennsylvania (47) and South Dakota (46).

  • Hawaii saw the greatest gain, moving up 18 places from 35th in 1998 to 17th in 2005. New Jersey (23rd in 1998, 41st in 2005) and Rhode Island (19th in 1998, 37th in 2005) saw the most precipitous drops, each dropping 18 spots.

  • In the U.S. today, eight women are governors, 15 are lieutenant governors and 15 are chief justices of the state's highest court.

  • The gender gap among state legislators is three times larger than the gender gap among top advisors in governors' offices.

For copies of this report and for more information about the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society, visit the Center's web site at

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Report author and Center for Women in Government & Civil Society Director Judith Saidel is available for commentary and analysis; call (518) 442-3896.


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