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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Still Hold Big Majority of Women in State Legislatures

Some statistical nuggets from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) regarding the increase of women in state legislatures:

  • As a result of the 2022 election, a record number of women serve in state legislatures, holding 32.7% of all seats.
  • The net gain in women’s state legislative representation as a result of election 2022 matched that of 2020, but the partisan trend differed. Gains for Democratic women were up in 2022 from 2020, while Republican women’s gains were smaller as a result of election 2022 than they were as a result of the 2020 election.
  • A record number of women were state legislative nominees in 2022, but women were still just one-third of all state legislative nominees. While women were 48.3% of Democratic state legislative nominees, they were 24% of Republican nominees.
  • The number of women in state legislatures went up in 32 states, down in 12 states, and stayed the same in six states between 2022 and 2023.
  • In 2023, Colorado became the second state in U.S. history whose state legislature reached parity in women’s and men’s representation. Women maintained a majority in Nevada, the first state to reach gender parity in 2018.
  • As of February 2023, women match or exceed men’s representation in six state legislative chambers: the Nevada House and Senate, the Arizona Senate, the New Hampshire Senate, the Colorado House, and the New Mexico House.
  • CAWP’s data on women state legislators by racial and ethnicity will be available later this year upon receipt of racial/ethnic self-identification from newly-elected women legislators.

Also, “As of February 2023, a record high 2,414 (1,583D, 805R, 20NP, 6Ind) women serve in state legislatures, holding 32.7% of all seats; 1,822 (1,199D, 616R, 2NP, 5Ind) women serve in state houses and 592 (384D, 189R, 18NP, 1Ind) women serve in state senates, both record highs.1 Women are 20% of Republican and 48.4% of Democratic state legislators….Of all women serving in state legislatures as of February 2023, 65.6% are Democrats and 33.3% are Republicans, representing almost no change in the partisan gap in women’s state legislative representation; as of Election Day 2022, 66% of women state legislators were Democrats and 33.1% were Republicans. In contrast, nearly two-thirds of men state legislators are Republicans.”

Looking ahead, the CAWP report on state legislatures concludes:

“As a result of the 2022 election, women are nearing one-third of state legislators nationwide. While this is a notable milestone, gender parity in state legislative representation – achieved in only two states to date – remains distant. Partisan differences contribute to this reality, with Democratic state legislators almost at gender parity while women represent less than one-quarter of Republican state legislators nationwide. Expediting gender parity in state legislative representation will require closing this party gap from candidacy to officeholding.

Women’s state legislative power is not determined by numbers alone. Already in 2023, many women have ascended to key leadership posts in state legislatures, including 18 women who hold the top leadership position (speaker, senate president, or senate president pro tem) in their chambers. In these roles, women have even greater capacity to shape legislative agendas, determine policy strategy, and influence the trajectory of major policy issues that have been delegated to states from the federal government.

State legislative elections in 2023 – to be held in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia – offer the next opportunity for monitoring women’s representation as candidates, nominees, and officeholders. Moreover, being attentive to the retention of women already in state legislatures is important to understanding the overall progress toward gender parity. Finally, making significant gains in women’s state legislative representation will require identifying and taking advantage of opportunities for growth, building and/or bolstering in-state support infrastructures for women candidates and officeholders, and expanding focus beyond statewide and federal offices to make clear the importance of increasing women’s representation in state legislatures for both policymaking and building the pool of potential candidates for higher office.”

The state legislative figures for Democratic women are encouraging, since Democratic women lost one seat in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, while Republican women picked up two seats in both the Senate and House.

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