The Appointments Project and Closing the Gender Gap
Today, the Women's Foundation's Appointment Project released new research on gender parity and best practices to increase women's roles on public boards and commissions. The Institute of Public Policy was contracted to create a guide for best practices for civic boards and commissions, with an eye towards the discovery of what makes these governing bodies more diverse and effective. While 2018 elections brought more women into US public office than ever before, many corporate, non-profit and civic boards lack gender parity, are not representative of their constituencies and enact laws and rules that impact the larger population.
According to the study, US women are significantly underrepresented in local government prior to 2018 midterm elections, with only 15% of city administrators being women and only 21% of the nation's mayoral offices held by women. The research also shows that 28.6% of state legislators are women, 23.7% of congressional members are women, and as of January 2019, only nine women are governors. Internationally, the US ranks 103 out of 193 countries for gender parity, when looking at legislative assemblies worldwide, according to the research. Gender equity on corporate boards hovers around 20% for women with non-profits showing stronger at 72% of chief executives, 42% of board chairs, and 48% of board members being women, though there was very little racial or ethnic diversity, according to a 2017 study of non-profits. Greater diversity leads to higher levels of public trust, and better outcomes in general when representation is seen as fair across gender and ethnicity.
To begin to approach correcting the imbalance, the Women's Foundation initiated the Appointments Project to identify best practices, build capacity toward gender parity and manage a talent pool of women interested in public service and leadership roles. The best practices identify several strategies for improving gender equity on boards and commissions including increasing ease and transparency of application processes; conducting community outreach; offering professional development; developing policies and procedures that make reporting and decision making policies and processes clear; and assessing performance.