# Another look at gender equality in the U.S.

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

One of the independent variables included in The Economist’s where-to-be-born index is gender equality. While various methods exist to measure gender equality, the one selected by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU) is based on the share of seats in government held by women. In theory, this approach won’t work well in cases where women constitute the majority — in reality, however, that’s unfortunately almost never the case.

So how does the U.S. fare here? Let’s start with the historical perspective.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics website, Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, became the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. Six years later, Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Democrat from Georgia, became the first woman to serve as a Senator. However, this was only for a single-day appointment. Ten years later, Hattie Caraway (Democrat, Arkansas) became the first to win an election.

Since the early years, the Democratic Party has lead the count, as seen in the chart below (see the link at the end of the article for additional details on how the numbers were calculated in special cases).

So what about now? As of writing, 104 women served in Congress, with three-quarters (76 percent, to be exact) being Democrats. Another 76 held different statewide elective offices (a quarter of the total positions).

Let’s use the same measure proposed by The Economist to draw a comparison between the states. In this case, the methodology requires us to look at the share of seats in state legislatures. The share nationwide is again equal to almost one in every four positions. But the numbers observed vary widely from one state to another. The lowest percentage is seen in Wyoming (only 13 percent), while the highest is in Vermont (41 percent).

The percentage of cities with female mayors is slightly lower: 18 to 19 percent (depending on the population). The largest among these cities is San Antonio, Texas. You can see all of the cities (with a population of at least 30,000) with female mayors in the chart below:

Source(s):