Gender Stat: Politics 2013


Rosa Cho, Researcher & Writer
Gail Cooper, Vice President for Programs
  1. Overview
  2. By the Numbers: Women as Political Actors
  3. Beyond the Numbers: Women as Political Participants
  4. Sources & References



This section highlights 2013 data on women's political leadership positions in the U.S., along with a few recent papers that explore barriers to women's greater political participation. Subsections include:

  • Women elected/appointed to national office (globally and in the U.S.)

  • Gender and seniority in U.S. executive and legislative branches

  • Gender representation among state and city officeholders

  • Beyond numbers: Challenges to shaping gender and political participation

Today, women occupy 22.8 percent of all political and governmental leadership positions, according to a 2013 report by Colorado Women’s College. Representation of women in the 2013 U.S. Congress is at a historical high—20 percent in the Senate and 18.2 percent in the House of Representatives. And yet, despite the fact that women make up approximately 51 percent of the U.S. population, they represented only 18 percent of Congress, 24 percent of state legislators, 10 percent of governors, and 12 percent of mayors of major cities in 2013. The figures are lower for women of color.

The mixed results are reflected in the U.S.’s ranking in the Global Gender Gap Report, which assesses female-to-male achievement ratios in four categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. While the U.S. ranked 23rd overall (out of 136 countries) when all four categories were averaged, its rank sank to 60th when looking solely at political empowerment and the gender gap. The four countries ranked highest for closing the gender gap overall (Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) were also ranked highest for closing the politics gender gap; likewise, all of the countries ranked in the top 10 overall for closing the gender gap also ranked in the top 16 for closing the politics gender gap.

Further, although women’s voter turnout is strong, they still face numerous obstacles that erode their ability to vote or vie for public office to greater effect. While gender is a factor, so too are marital status, race/ethnicity, social class, etc. As voters, women are treated often as a monolithic bloc; as politicians, they tend to be characterized more by personality traits than by experience or stances on issues.

A note about our information sources: We have incorporated many resources in developing this edition of Gender Stat, including existing research and analysis from experts in academic, policy, and NGO/NPO organizations. Among others, they include the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute, Colorado Women’s College, the World Economic Forum, the Congressional Research Service, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. A complete list of sources used is available at the end of this publication.

1  2  3  4