Governor Chris Gregoire’s first term in office has resulted in several significant Washington State milestones. Washington State is currently the only state in the country with over half of its cabinet level appointments being held by women. It is also the state with the biggest increase in women in these positions in the last decade.
It is quite the opposite in some states. Both Texas and New Hampshire have no women in cabinet level positions. In the Northwest, Oregon only has 27% of its cabinet positions held by women; Idaho has only 17%. Currently 23 women hold cabinet level positions in Washington State, up from 11% in 1997.
Neil Modie in an article in the Seattle PI reports these and other facts from a just released study by the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation. Washington leads the nation according to the report because of among other things, “a commitment on the part of the governor’s office to recruit a diverse pool of candidates for consideration for appointed positions.”
We’ve written before about the disparity of women versus men in elected offices in this country. Our post was entitled “The Glass Ceiling for Women in Politics.” Only 16% of our US Senators and 16% of our US Representatives are women. Of 50 Governors only 8 are women. And Internationally we rank 68th out of 189 nations in the percentage of women in national parliaments. Since last year we actually dropped from 67th.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “There are currently 1,729 women legislators serving across the country. Women hold 23.4 percent of legislative seats in the 50 states, a ratio that has increased only slightly over the past ten years.”
Nationally men outnumber women in State Legislatures by 3 to 1. In Washington State, the figure is 2 to 1. We rank 7th in the country in women in the Legislature after Vermont 37.8%, New Hampshire 35.8%, Colorado 35%, Minnesota 34.8%, Arizona 33.3%, Hawaii 32.9% and Washington State 32.7% .
Gregoire’s leadership in appointing women to state cabinet positions is important in helping achieve more parity and opportunity for women to assume leadership positions. As Neil Modie writes, the report “said women appointees tend to “open up more opportunities for women overall,” and, “more importantly, appointed leadership is a vital pipeline to elected office” — as it was for Gregoire, for example. She was an assistant state attorney general when former Gov. Booth Gardner appointed her head of the Department of Ecology. From there she was elected state attorney general and, in 2004, governor.”