Iowa is the Only State Requiring a Gender Balance on County and State Boards. Has It Helped?

Aug 2, 2018

Since 2009, Iowa boards and commissions have been required by law to maintain gender balance. The latest research from Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics shows that boards statewide have fallen short.

Kelly Winfrey, Assistant Professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University, joins host Ben Kieffer on this segment of River to River to chat about the ongoing study.

According to the Gender Balance Project, women hold less than 35 percent of county boards and commission seats and just shy of 24 percent of all chair positions. This indicates just a 0.28 percent increase from 2016.


While gender balance is in good standing at the state level, Winfrey says there's an ill-defined “good faith” mandate for county boards and commissions to diversify, which makes enforcement of the requirement difficult.


“The code gives a three-month grace period. If you can’t find a candidate that would make it gender balanced after three months, you can just fill it with whoever is qualified for that position,” Winfrey explains. “So there’s a lot of flexibility in how it’s implemented and there’s no real enforcement to it.”


Later on the show, Winfrey and host, Ben Kieffer, analyze the TV advertisements of two female candidates, Iowa’s 1st Congressional District candidate Abby Finkenauer and congressional candidate in Texas MJ Hegar, both of which have gone viral. Finkenauer and Hegar are just two of a record number of female candidates running for office during this midterm season.