Record number of women hold legislative leadership roles

February 18, 2021

The Hill: Record number of women hold legislative leadership roles

By: Jared Gans and Jonnette Oakes

A record number of women are in state legislature leadership posts, with states like California, Maryland, Nevada and Vermont leading the pack.

Eighty-seven women nationwide were holding a leadership position in either a state House or state Senate at the start of this year’s legislative session, up from 72 in 2019, according to recent data from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The top ranks include positions like state House Speaker, state Senate president, Speaker pro tempore, Senate president pro tempore, majority leader and minority leader.

Of the six types of leadership positions that the NCSL analyzed, women hold four of those roles in six states — California, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Ten states do not have any women serving in legislative leadership roles.

The number of Democratic women serving in leadership roles hit a record 64 this year.

“More women in office ensures the issues of so many families and in our communities are addressed and our rights are protected, and it often means our government runs better and gets more done. That's why we are thrilled to see record numbers of Democratic pro-choice women run, win and, importantly, get elected to leadership,” Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILYs List, said in a statement to The Hill.

The number of Republican women in state leadership posts was 23 in January, one short of the high from 2015 and 2016.

“More than ever, in recent years and throughout our country, women are realizing and understanding the necessity of they themselves being involved, and they are stepping up to take an active role in being a representative voice on all issues,” said Ann Schockett, president of the National Federation of Republican Women, in a statement.

A record six legislative chambers are now majority women: the Nevada House and Senate; Colorado House; the New Mexico House; the Arizona Senate; and the Rhode Island Senate.

In Nevada, the only state where women hold more than 50 percent of the state legislature’s seats, more than 60 percent of the legislature is made up of women, an uptick from 2019 when that figure was slightly more than 50 percent.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women now hold a record 2,274 seats in state legislatures across the country, or slightly more than 30 percent of all seats. The number held by women has more than quintupled since 1971 and grew by almost 2 percentage points compared to 2019.

In state Senate seats alone, women hold more than 550, or 28 percent overall. That figure surpasses the 2019 record of 508, or 25.8 percent.

Along with the momentum of significant gains for women in state legislatures in 2019 and 2021 nationwide, almost 20 women of color serve in leadership positions in state Houses and state Senates. Of the total number of seats held by women, more than 25 percent are occupied by women of color.