States with the Most Women in Politics
States with the Most Women in Politics

by Palmer Gibbs

With gender-focused narratives dominating national headlines, InsideGov decided to investigate female representation in politics on a state level. Using data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, InsideGov ranked the 25 states with the highest percentage of women in elected office.

The role of women in politics and leadership has proven to be a particularly flammable storyline throughout the 2016 election, whether it's Donald Trump's feud with Fox journalist Megyn Kelly or his assertion that Hillary Clinton is "playing the woman card left and right" in the presidential contest. (For her part, the former secretary of state cashed in on Trump's comment, collecting $2.4 million in a fundraising campaign based off the remark.)

During an MSNBC town hall in April, Clinton said if she were elected president, she would have a Cabinet that was 50 percent female. And the week before, the Democrat's campaign told the Boston Globe that women will be on the list of Clinton's potential vice presidential picks. For a brief time, former presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina actually was a VP candidate, when she joined Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's Republican presidential ticket in late April.

With gender-focused narratives dominating national headlines, Graphiq politics site InsideGov decided to investigate female representation in politics on a state level. Using data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, InsideGov ranked the 25 states with the highest percentage of women in elected office. The data, as of March 2016, counts how many women hold elected office in each state's House and Senate and finds a percentage based on the total number of seats in both chambers. When necessary, InsideGov broke ranking ties by the total number of women legislators, and then alphabetically.

The U.S. Census Bureau finds that women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population. But the state government data shows that, overall, just 24.5 percent of state legislators are women. All of the states on this list have legislatures composed of at least 25 percent women, but even the top state doesn't meet the 50 percent mark.

 

#25. Ohio

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 25.00 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 33 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 132 Seats

Of the 33 women who hold elected office in the Buckeye State, seven serve in the state Senate. In February 2016, those seven women -- four Democrats and three Republicans -- joined together in support of increasing workplace protections for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

 

#24. Wisconsin

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 25.00 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 33 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 132 Seats

One-fourth of elected officials in Wisconsin state-level politics are women. Two groups have popped up in attempts to get more women to run for office: Emerge Wisconsin works with Democrats, and the Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women works to increase its party's female representation.

 

#23. Florida

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 25.00 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 40 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 160 Seats

In November 2014, state Sen. Arthenia Joyner became the first African-American woman to head up Florida's Senate Democratic caucus. The Senate Minority Leader was awarded Legislator of the Year by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators in 2016.

 

#22. Massachusetts

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 25.00 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 50 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 200 Seats

When it comes to the national level, Massachusetts claims one of the better-known women in politics: Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who in 2012 became the first woman Bay State voters sent to the U.S. Senate. On a more local level, Democratic state Sen. Therese Murray became the first female president of the Massachusetts Senate in 2007. She retired in 2015.

 

#21. New York

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 25.82 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 55 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 213 Seats

Like Massachusetts, many female politicians influential on the national stage call New York home. Democratic state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who was a county legislator before joining the Senate in 2007, is the conference leader for her party.

 

#20. California

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 25.83 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 31 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 120 Seats

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, a Democrat out of San Diego, became the first openly gay woman to serve as speaker of the state Assembly in 2014. She is currently running for state Senate in the 39th District, which also encompasses most of San Diego.

 

#19. New Mexico

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 26.79 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 30 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 112 Seats

Of the 30 women serving in the state House and Senate in New Mexico, 17 are Democrats and 13 are Republicans.

 

#18. Rhode Island

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 27.43 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 31 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 113 Seats

Rhode Island native M. Teresa Paiva Weed has served in the state Senate since 1992, and was the first woman to be elected as the president of the Senate in 2009. She is one of 27 Democratic women in the Legislature; four are Republicans.

 

#17. Idaho

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 27.62 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 29 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 105 Seats

State Sen. Shawn Keough, a Republican who has represented northern Idaho's District 1 since 1996, told a local reporter that she received some pushback when she first ran for office in the 1990s. "The strongest comment was, 'How does your husband allow you to do this, or put up with this?'" Keough recalled for a 2014 article in the Boise Weekly. "My husband was actually asked by another legislator once, 'How come you let her come here?'"

 

#16. Alaska

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 28.33 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 17 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 60 Seats

In Alaska, the majority of women in the state legislature are Republicans -- 14 Republicans to three Democrats. Women also hold top leadership positions in both parties. House Majority Leader Charisse Millett, a Republican out of Anchorage, was first elected to the House in 2008. Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner, a Democrat who also represents Anchorage, has served in the Senate since 2013.

 

#15. Connecticut

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 28.34 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 53 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 187 Seats

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides followed an unconventional path into politics that started in a wrestling ring and ended up in the Connecticut Capitol. Before she launched her current career, Klarides was a WWE "ring girl" and model. A Connecticut native, Klarides was first elected to the state House in 1998, and became the first woman to lead the House Republicans in 2014.

 

#14. Hawaii

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 28.95 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 22 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 76 Seats

In Hawaii, all state female legislators are part of the Hawaii Women's Legislative Caucus. Every year, the bipartisan group offers up a package of bills that address women's issues.

 

#13. New Hampshire

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 29.01 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 123 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 424 Seats

With an estimated population of about 1.3 million, New Hampshire is among the least populated states in the country. But it boasts the largest state legislature, with 424 total seats in the House and Senate (only the U.S. Congress, with its 535 voting members, is larger). Of the 400 members in the New Hampshire state House, 115 are women. Eight of the 24 members of the state Senate are women.

 

#12. Maine

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 29.03 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 54 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 186 Seats

According to the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston, there was an 11 percent increase from 1979 to 2014 in how many women served in state-level politics in Maine.

 

#11. New Jersey

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 30.00 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 36 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 120 Seats

Women hold top leadership positions in the New Jersey Senate. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg was first elected in 2005, and President Pro Tempore Nia Gill joined the Senate in 2002. Both women are Democrats.

 

#10. Oregon

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 31.11 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 28 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 90 Seats

Women hold top leadership positions in the Senate and House in Oregon. Democrats are in the majority in both chambers of the legislature.

 

#9. Montana

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 31.33 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 47 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 150 Seats

In 2014, Montana's House of Representatives grabbed national headlines when Republican leaders offered up a dress code that gave some pretty specific directions for female lawmakers. Although restrictions were given for both men and women, women were instructed that "leggings are not considered dress pants" and that they "should be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines." According to BuzzFeed News, Democratic Rep. Jenny Eck said of the rules: "It feels like an admonishment reserved for women about being sensitive about what we wear and I find that problematic. I don't think there was an intent to be discriminatory, but that was the end effect."

 

#8. Maryland

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 31.38 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 59 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 188 Seats

In Maryland state politics, women hold top leadership positions in both chambers. Majority Leader Anne Kaiser has served in the House of Delegates since 2003, while Majority Leader Catherine Pugh was first elected to the Senate in 2006. Both women are Democrats. Pugh is currently running for mayor of Baltimore.

 

#7. Illinois

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 32.20 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 57 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 177 Seats

Of the 57 women who serve in the Illinois state House and Senate, 43 are Democrats and 14 are Republicans.

 

#6. Nevada

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 33.33 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 21 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 63 Seats

Sadie Hurst was the first woman elected to the Nevada state legislature, according to a report on Nevada legislators put out by the Research Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau. A Republican, Hurst was elected to the Assembly in 1918. She was a suffrage leader, and presided over the Assembly when it ratified the federal amendment that granted women the right to vote in 1920.

 

#5. Minnesota

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 33.33 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 67 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 201 Seats

Republican Rep. Joyce Peppin has served in the Minnesota House since 2004, and was elected as the House majority leader in 2014. In a feature article about her time in office, colleagues described Peppin as "wonky" and "a workhorse, not a show horse."

 

#4. Washington

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 34.01 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 50 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 147 Seats

In 1910 -- 10 years before it became federal law -- Washington gave women the right to vote. Two years later, the first two women were elected into the state legislature: Frances Axtell and Nena Croake were elected to the state House.

 

#3. Arizona

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 36.67 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 33 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 90 Seats

Arizona is among the top three states when it comes to the percentage of women serving in state legislatures. Of the 33 elected women, 18 are Democrats and 15 are Republicans.

 

#2. Vermont

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 41.11 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 74 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 180 Seats

Vermont state Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, who was first elected to the House in 2004, became the majority leader in 2014. She continues to run a coffee shop in her home district of Bradford, called Local Buzz.

 

#1. Colorado

 

 

Percentage of Elected State Officials Who Are Women: 42.00 Percent
Total Number of Female Elected Officials in State Legislature: 42 Women
Total Number of Seats in State-Level Politics: 100 Seats

Colorado holds the top spot when it comes to the percentage of women elected to state legislatures. At 42 percent, Colorado's female representation in state politics is significantly higher than the overall national tally of 24.5 percent, but still shy of the national 50-50 gender breakdown.

 

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Politics: "States with the Most Women in Politics"