This week, the RepresentWomen team released the 2023 Gender Parity Index, an annual report outlining the status of women’s representation in the 50 states. Each year, using data from local, state and national office, we assign all 50 states a gender parity score, letter grade and ranking, according to their proximity to parity.
Ten years after the GPI first launched, Maine and Oregon have both achieved an “A” for the first time, 24 states are split evenly between “Bs” and “Cs,” and 23 states have earned a “D.” Louisiana is the only failing state.
The findings of the 2023 GPI provide ample support for both pipeline initiatives and systems-level strategies that have been proven to increase women’s representation. Implementing reforms such as ranked-choice voting makes it possible to achieve gender balance, in politics, in our lifetimes.
Read the full report to learn more about the status of women’s representation in the United States and the methodology of RepresentWomen’s Gender Parity Index. Below are some of the top takeaways.
Maine got the top spot for gender parity, beating out the 2022 winner, New Mexico.
Although New Mexico was the highest-ranking state in 2022, Maine comes out on top in this year’s rankings.
Women governors have set a new record for representation.
The 2023 Index reflects recent record-breaking progress for women in the U.S. government, particularly state executives. Following the 2022 elections, 12 states have women governors, breaking the previous record of nine.
Correspondingly, six of the top 10 states in the 2023 GPI have women governors, including Maine (1st), Oregon (2nd), Michigan (3rd), New Mexico (4th), Iowa (7th) and Massachusetts (9th).
Women are still underrepresented at every single level of government.
After the last few election cycles, the number of women in office is at a record high. In addition to having the first woman vice president in history, women are represented at unprecedented levels nationwide.
However, there are limits to defining women’s representation in terms of record highs and lows. Incremental victories may break records, but they do not significantly advance progress toward parity—because the baseline for women’s representation has always been low.
The 2023 GPI shows that women are still underrepresented at every level of government in the U.S., holding just one-third of all elected positions, despite comprising over 50 percent of the population.
Women of color are further underrepresented, holding just about one-tenth of all elected positions.
Not every state is on an upward trajectory toward parity.
Some states, such as New Hampshire and Louisiana, have even lost progress over time.
In 2013, Maine earned a parity score of 26/100 (grade: C) and ranked 10th in the U.S. By 2023, Maine’s score had more than doubled, achieving a total of 53.6 points, first place on the GPI, and an “A” grade.
Oregon has similarly made record progress in the last decade, going from a score of 23/100 (rank: 13th, grade: D) to 53/100 in 10 years.
Other states have made even more dramatic progress in the last 10 years.
Iowa achieved a parity score of 11/100 (grade: D) and ranked 40th in the 2013 GPI. This year, Iowa has earned a score of 43/100 (grade: B) and ranks 7th in the U.S.
Virginia has similarly made notable progress since the 2013 Index, when it ranked 50th in the U.S. with a parity score of 5/100 (grade: F). In 2023, Virginia has achieved a score of 22/100 (grade: D) and ranks 28th in the country.
While most states have made at least marginal progress toward parity since 2013, some states have earned lower scores in 2023 than they achieved in the first Index.
New Hampshire ranked 1st in 2013, with a score of 47.5 (grade: B). Despite earning 57/100 points in 2015 and an “A” between 2015-2018 and 2020, New Hampshire now ranks 10th in the country with a 41/100 (grade: B). Though New
Hampshire still outperforms most states in the GPI, its declining score shows that progress toward parity can be undone if women leave elected office.
Hawaii has similarly lost progress toward gender parity over the last decade. In 2013, Hawaii ranked 3rd with a score of 40/100 (grade: B). In 2023, Hawaii ranks 22nd in the country with a score of 27/100 (grade: C).
Other states that received notably lower parity scores in 2023 than they did in 2013 include:
- Connecticut (27/100 in 2013 to 24/100 in 2023)
- North Carolina (29/100 in 2013 to 21/100 in 2023)
- Louisiana (16/100 in 2013 to 9/100 in 2023)
The worst states for representation are concentrated in the U.S. South and Midwest.
Gains for women are concentrated in the Northeast and West Coast, while women’s representation in Midwestern and Southern states lags far behind.
Democratic women are outpacing Republican women in elected office.
This trend suggests that progress toward parity will eventually slow unless:
- more Republican women are elected, or
- more Democratic women than men are elected.
Without reform, the U.S. won’t see gender parity in most of our lifetimes.
The GPI reveals that progress toward a gender-balanced democracy remains slow and uneven across geography, ideology and race.
The United States is only halfway to gender parity, with an average state parity score of 27. At this rate, the nation will not see a gender-balanced democracy for at least another 118 years.
Systemic reform is needed to level the playing field and create more opportunities for women to enter and remain in office. Rather than replace existing candidate-focused strategies, systemic reforms can function in a complementary manner to bring out the best of both strategies.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.