INCREMENTAL PROGRESS IN 2021
While progress was made, women still make up just 30.8% of state legislators.
Women now make up a record 30.8% of state legislators, but the gains seen nationally were not evenly distributed in states across the country. Thirty-two states will see the number of women serving in their statehouses increase in 2021, while women’s representation in six states will remain stagnant, and decline in 12 states. Likewise, women as a percentage of state legislators varies dramatically in states across the country, from a low of 11% in West Virginia to a high of 60% in Nevada.
Read our full analysis of the 2020 state legislative election results.
One key barrier to equal representation in state houses for women is the egregiously low pay for state legislators. Pay for state legislators varies vastly, from $100 a year in New Hampshire to more than $100,000 a year in California and New York; and the average base salary for a state legislator is just $38,370.
“One of the first things women think about when considering running for the state legislature is the salary. Being a state representative is a full-time job, but it only comes with part-time pay. This is the number one barrier keeping women from running for office. This results in narrowing the field of candidates by gender; by occupation; income levels and ethnicity.”
- Kansas State Representative Susan Ruiz
Legislatures were originally designed to allow members to hold jobs outside of government to maintain natural connections to the communities they serve. The demanding schedule of state legislatures, even those that are part-time, makes it difficult or impossible to maintain regular employment. This system makes state legislative offices inaccessible for most Americans and results in retirees, people with private businesses, and the independently wealthy having far more access to the role.
The Ascend Fund is committed to changing the face of leadership. We believe it is important to establish a pathway for more women to see themselves as candidates and normalize women's leadership. We invest in organizations bridging the gap, providing women with the tools, training, and resources to successfully run for office.
Read our full analysis
of the impact of low state legislative pay in our monthly column, Perspectives on Parity.