Researchers at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University who recently released a report on the gender balance of boards and commissions in county government have followed up with a look at the same issue for cities and towns. Valerie Hennings says they found the compliance among all the boards in their survey was about the same for municipalities as it was for counties.
“We learned that when we look at the total number of boards and commissions that have reported data to us, about 49-percent of those boards and commissions are gender balanced. So they are in compliance with the gender balance legislation that we have here in the State of Iowa. So, that’s one similarity that we’ve found,” Hennings says.
Hennings says they did find a difference in leadership for the city positions. “We see more women chairing municipal boards and commissions at the city level as compared to county boards and commissions,” according to Hennings. “For example, women comprised 30-percent of the municipal boards and commission chairs, as compared to the counties, where they make up 18-percent of those chairs.”
There was a difference too in the number of cities that had 100-percent gender balance on all of their commissions and boards.
“Out of the 124 cities that have gotten back to us, we’ve learned that about 10-percent of them are in compliance with the legislation,” Hennings says.
“When we compare that to the 93 counties that have gotten back to us on the boards and commissions we are studying in this particular examination, about two percent of those counties are in compliance.” Hennings says they found both large and small communities among those which had achieved 100-percent gender balance on all their boards and commissions.
That mirrored what they found among the counties where rural and metropolitan counties were among those hitting the full mark. Hennings says that shows there are ways to achieve the full balance anywhere in the state. The goal of the study is to get more people overall involved in government.
“We are continuing our data collection efforts and then of course hoping to use this information to provide opportunities and to educate the public — both men and women — about these opportunities to be active in their communities as well as in their county government,” Hennings says.
The Catt Center is working with the Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women on the project.