A Glass Ceiling in the Governor’s Office

August 25, 2008

A new report was published by the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the University of Albany entitled Glass Ceiling in Gubernatorial Appointments 1997-2007: Appointed Policy Makers in State Government. The center conducted a study that analyzed female policy leaders who were appointed by current state governors. These appointees included department heads and top advisers in state governors’ offices. It measured the degree to which women are represented by dividing the percentage of policy leader positions to which women are appointed by the percentage of women in the state’s population.

Policy Leaders by Gender, 1997-2007

According to the report, the total percentage of women in top-ranking leadership positions has increased to 35 percent in 2007 from 28 percent in 1997. Significantly, 36 of the 50 states are progressing based on their representative ratios. While this is an achievement, there are still 14 other states that are regressing. There was a large increase in the number of appointed women department heads, but governors still are not accepting women into their inner circle. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of top women advisers increased by only 2.4 percent.

Plus, although the 2000 U.S. Census recorded substantial changes in the race and ethnicity composition of the U.S. population, the demographics of executive branch policy leaders changed very little. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of appointed Latinos/as and African Americans grew by 2.1 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively. But Asian Americans and American Indians actually lost ground; their numbers fell by 0.7 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

Where does your state stand, and what can be done to increase the number of women appointees?

This post is by Michelle Gellman, AAUW Leadership and Training Institute Fellow.

Avatar By:   |   August 25, 2008


  1. Avatar Libby Walkup says:

    Women aren’t running, and we have to ask what’s keeping more women from seeing politics as a future, but that’s not the issue here. The study was done on “appointed” members of the inner-circles. This means that governors pick these people. There is no voting involved, which means no running. It basically means that you have to network with the right people, and let’s face it, women have yet to be invited into the “good ole boys club.”

  2. Avatar Khalea Zobel says:

    I believe one of the reasons women are not elected is because they do not run. Let get active and start making a difference.

  3. Avatar Carolyn Hayek says:

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. This is an excellent issue for AAUW members to look at locally. It is important for us to include the ethnic data also, as you have.

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