Removing gender balance on government boards

Removing gender-balance for state and local boards

The Senate approved this bill.  Ask your state representative to oppose SF2096 and HF2540. 

A bill has been introduced that would eliminate the requirement that government boards, commissions, committees, and councils be balanced by gender in all political subdivisions in the state - the state, county, municipal, and others.   These are all appointed positions.   By gender balance, not more than half plus one (in the case of a board with an odd number of members) can be of the same gender. 

What you can do:

Ask your state representative to oppose HF2540 and SF2096. 

To look up your house member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/house
 
To find your legislators, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find

Background

Similar bills to this have been introduced in prior legislative session.  In 2023, Senator Jason Schultz discussed one of those bills during the subcommittee meeting.  Senator Schultz stated that women have made advances in the professional world which makes the requirement unnecessary.   He also stated that some boards are having trouble finding volunteers to serve on the board.  When questioned, Senator Schultz did not offer a list of boards that were having difficulty balancing their members.

First, the current law allows a non-gendered balanced board, at the local level, if a candidate is not found within 3 months of good-faith recruitment.

The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics has done extensive research on the gender balance of Iowa's state-level boards and commissions as well as county and municipal boards and commissions.  Their data indicates that there is still a need to require gender balance on appointed boards, commissions, committees, and councils.  See https://cattcenter.iastate.edu/research/gender-balance-project/

Out of the 77 counties that provided information:

  • Only 8 of the counties had achieved gender balance on all 7 boards and commissions they examined
  • Only 38.16% of the seats  on county boards and commissions were held by women
  • Only 61.24% of the boards were gender balanced
  • Women held 25.67% of the chair positions for county boards and commissions

A similar story can be told for municipalities.  Out of the municipalities that provided information

  • 12 cities had gender-balanced boards and commissions
  • Women held 42.96% of the seats on boards and commissions
  • 62.26% of the boards were gender balanced
  • Women held 32.28% of the chair positions for municipal boards and commissions

Why is this important?

The law that establishes gender balance was passed because government boards and commissions were mostly comprised of men.  Women, who comprise of over half of the population were excluded.  We currently are not meeting the balance and we clearly do not want to backslide.

A diversity of voices makes our decisions and recommendations stronger.  Having a seat at the table matters when decisions are being made.

Women have traditionally been left off of boards and committees.  It is clear that they currently are not being included across the state.  There is still lots of room to improve. 

There should also be opportunities for non-binary and trans people to serve on boards and committees.

The local boards and committees serve as training opportunities for those who are interested in serving in other positions, included elected positions. 

Serving provides opportunities to meet mentors who can enrich a volunteer's skills and knowledge.

Sources

Chapter 69.16A of the Iowa Code

Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics website - https://cattcenter.iastate.edu/research/gender-balance-project/

Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capitol Dispatch, January 13, 2023