January 14, 2015

The Data on Women Leaders

Most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, yet women still make up a small share of top leadership jobs. Our full report explores Americans’ views about women leaders, the barriers they face and prospects for the future. Below, we’ve charted the share of women in top U.S. political and business roles over time and set the scale at 50% to show the halfway mark.

Click on the charts below to explore the trends in women in leadership roles over the years.


U.S. Senate

U.S. House

State Legislatures

Fortune 500 CEOs

Corporate Board Members

College Presidents

Governors

U.S. Cabinet


Women in the U.S. Senate, 1965-2015

Date Women in the U.S. Senate
1965 2%
1967 1%
1969 1%
1971 1%
1973 0%
1975 0%
1977 0%
1979 1%
1981 2%
1983 2%
1985 2%
1987 2%
1989 2%
1991 2%
1993 6%
1995 9%
1997 9%
1999 9%
2001 12%
2003 14%
2005 14%
2007 16%
2009 17%
2011 17%
2013 20%
2015 20%

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University and U.S. House of Representatives

Note: Shows the share of female senators at the outset of each term of Congress.

Pew Research Center

There are 20 women serving in the U.S. Senate, an historic high that has held steady for the last two Congresses. Of the 20 women, 14 are Democrats and 6 are Republicans. The first woman in the Senate was Rebecca Felton (D-Ga.), who was appointed to the seat as a political maneuver in 1922 and served just one day. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.), who served in the Senate from 1978 to 1997, was the first female senator who was not initially elected to fill an unexpired Congressional term.

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Women in the U.S. House, 1965-2015

Date Women in the U.S. House
1965 2.3%
1967 2.5%
1969 2.3%
1971 2.8%
1973 3.2%
1975 4.1%
1977 4.1%
1979 3.7%
1981 4.1%
1983 4.8%
1985 5.1%
1987 5.3%
1989 5.7%
1991 6.4%
1993 10.8%
1995 10.8%
1997 11.7%
1999 12.9%
2001 13.6%
2003 13.6%
2005 14.9%
2007 16.3%
2009 17.0%
2011 16.6%
2013 17.9%
2015 19.3%

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University and U.S. House of Representatives

Note: Shows the share of female representatives at the outset of each term of Congress. Does not include delegates from the U.S. territories or District of Columbia.

Pew Research Center

A record 84 women are serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 114th Congress, comprising 19% of House members. Of these, 62 are Democrats and 22 are Republicans. In addition to the 84 House members, four women serve as non-voting delegates to Congress, representing Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam. Jeannette Rankin (R-Mont.) was the first woman to be elected to Congress, in 1917. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the only woman to have served as speaker of the House. She served as speaker from 2007 to 2011 and is now the minority leader.

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Women in State Legislatures, 1971-2015

Year Share of women in state legislatures
1971 4.5%
1973 5.6%
1975 8.0%
1977 9.1%
1979 10.3%
1981 12.1%
1983 13.3%
1985 14.8%
1987 15.7%
1989 17.0%
1991 18.3%
1993 20.5%
1995 20.6%
1997 21.6%
1998 21.8%
1999 22.4%
2000 22.5%
2001 22.4%
2002 22.7%
2003 22.4%
2004 22.5%
2005 22.7%
2006 22.8%
2007 23.5%
2008 23.7%
2009 24.3%
2010 24.5%
2011 23.7%
2012 23.7%
2013 24.2%
2014 24.3%
2015 24.2%

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

Pew Research Center

Currently, women make up 22.1% of state senate seats and 24.9% of state house or assembly seats. In 2014, 10 women served as the top leadership post in state senates, and six women were speakers of state houses. The first women to serve in a state legislature were three Republicans elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1894. Today, Colorado is the state with the highest share of female state legislators, at 42%. Louisiana has the lowest share, at 12.5%.

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Women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, 1995-2014

Year Share of CEOs who are women
1995 0%
1996 0.2%
1997 0.4%
1998 0.4%
1999 0.4%
2000 0.4%
2001 0.8%
2002 1.2%
2003 1.4%
2004 1.6%
2005 1.8%
2006 2.0%
2007 2.4%
2008 2.4%
2009 3.0%
2010 3.0%
2011 2.4%
2012 3.6%
2013 4.0%
2014 5.2%

Source: Catalyst

Note: Based on the percentage of women CEOs at the time of the annual published Fortune 500 list. For 2014, share is as of November.

Pew Research Center

The share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies topped 5% for the first time in 2014, with 26 women heading major firms. General Motors, headed by Mary Barra, is the largest U.S. company with a female chief executive. Barra is the first female leader of an automaker in the world. The late Katherine Graham, of The Washington Post Co., was the first female CEO to make the Fortune 500 list, in 1972. Twenty years ago, there were no female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list.

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Women Fortune 500 Board Members, 1995-2013

Year Share of women who are board members
1995 9.6%
1996 10.2%
1997 10.6%
1998 11.1%
1999 11.2%
2000 11.7%
2001 12.4%
2003 13.6%
2005 14.7%
2006 14.6%
2007 14.8%
2008 15.2%
2009 15.2%
2010 15.7%
2011 16.1%
2012 16.6%
2013 16.9%

Source: Catalyst

Pew Research Center

The share of women sitting on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies has increased from 9.6% in 1995 to 16.9% in 2013. One-in-ten Fortune 500 companies have no women sitting on their board, and less than two-in-ten had a board comprised of at least 25% women.

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Women College Presidents, 1986-2011

Year Share of college presidents who are women
1986 9.5%
1998 19.3%
2001 21.1%
2006 23.0%
2011 26.4%

Source: American Council on Education, 2012, The American College President: 2012 Edition

Note: Percentages are based on U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions.

Pew Research Center

In 2011, 26.4% of university presidents were women, almost triple the share in 1986. Frances Elizabeth Willard became the first female college president in 1871, heading the Evanston College for Ladies in Illinois, which later merged with Northwestern University. In 1975, Lorene L. Rogers was the first woman to lead a major research university (University of Texas) and Judith Rodin became the first permanent female president of an Ivy League institution in 1994 (University of Pennsylvania).

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Women Governors, 1975-2015

Year Share of governors who are women
1975 2%
1976 2%
1977 4%
1978 4%
1979 4%
1980 4%
1981 0%
1982 0%
1983 0%
1984 2%
1985 4%
1986 4%
1987 6%
1988 6%
1989 6%
1990 6%
1991 6%
1992 6%
1993 6%
1994 8%
1995 2%
1996 2%
1997 4%
1998 6%
1999 6%
2000 6%
2001 10%
2002 10%
2003 12%
2004 18%
2005 16%
2006 16%
2007 18%
2008 16%
2009 14%
2010 12%
2011 12%
2012 12%
2013 10%
2014 10%
2015 10%

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

Pew Research Center

To date, 36 women have served as governor in 27 states. In 2015, two Democratic and three Republican women are serving as governors: Mary Fallin (R-Okla.), Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Susana Martinez (R-N.M.) and Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.). Nellie Tayloe Ross, a Democrat of Wyoming, was the first female governor, elected in a special election in 1925 to succeed her deceased husband. Ella Grasso, a Democrat of Connecticut, was the first female governor elected in her own right.

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Women in the U.S. Cabinet

Administration Women
Johnson 0
Nixon, term 1 0
Nixon, term 2 N/A
Ford 5%
Carter 11%
Reagan, term 1 18%
Reagan, term 2 18%
G.H.W. Bush 18%
Clinton, term 1 32%
Clinton, term 2 41%
G.W. Bush, term 1 19%
G.W. Bush, term 2 24%
Obama, term 1 30%
Obama, term 2 35%

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

Note: Percentages are based on the maximum number of women serving concurrently in a given administration. Includes only women presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate to cabinet or cabinet-level positions. One woman served in a cabinet-level position during Nixon's second term but the changing number of positions over the course of the term makes it impossible to provide a share.

Pew Research Center

The share of women serving in cabinet-level positions peaked during President Bill Clinton’s second term at 41%. It now stands at 35%. The first woman in a cabinet-level position was Frances Perkins, appointed as secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. To date, seven women have served as labor secretary, more than in any other cabinet position.

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