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Iowa counties, cities improve gender balance on boards


Cities and counties across the state continue to work toward achieving gender balance on commissions and boards, according to a new report from Iowa State University’s Catt Center for Women and Politics.

The percentage of gender-balanced county boards increased significantly — with nearly 68% balanced, compared with about 59% in 2018, said Kelly Winfrey, an assistant professor and coordinator of research and outreach for the Catt Center. There are now 14 counties, up from four the previous year, that have gender balance on all boards and commissions included in the study.

Municipal boards and commissions also improved; nearly 69% are gender-balanced, compared with 63% in 2018. Of the 186 cities that provided information or had data available online, 59 achieved balance on all boards and commissions.

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.

While Winfrey applauds the progress at both levels, she said there is still work to be done.

“The good news is we’re seeing more gender-balanced boards overall, so cities and counties are making some effort to balance boards,” Winfrey said. “The bad news is we aren’t seeing much of an increase in women’s representation, which suggests women are just being placed on different boards. There needs to be an effort to recruit more women to serve on boards so we can get that number closer to 50%.”

The complete report and more information about the Gender Balance Project can be found on the Catt Center’s website.

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