March 17, 2017

The Data on Women Leaders

Most Americans say women are about equal to men when it comes to key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, yet women still make up a small share of top leadership jobs. Our 2015 report explored Americans’ views about women leaders, the barriers they face and prospects for the future. Below, we’ve charted the most up-to-date data on the share of women in top U.S. political and business roles over time.

Click on the charts to explore trends for women in U.S. leadership roles over the years.


Women in the U.S. Senate, 1965-2017

Starting date of congressional term Share of U.S. senators who are women
1965 2.0%
1967 1.0%
1969 1.0%
1971 1.0%
1973 0.0%
1975 0.0%
1977 0.0%
1979 1.0%
1981 2.0%
1983 2.0%
1985 2.0%
1987 2.0%
1989 2.0%
1991 2.0%
1993 6.0%
1995 9.0%
1997 9.0%
1999 9.0%
2001 12.0%
2003 14.0%
2005 14.0%
2007 16.0%
2009 17.0%
2011 17.0%
2013 20.0%
2015 20.0%
2017 21.0%

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 21 women serving in the U.S. Senate, a historic high. Of these, 16 are Democrats and five 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, 1965-2017

Starting date of congressional term Share of U.S. representatives who are women
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%
2017 19.1%

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

There are 83 women serving as voting members of the House of Representatives in the 115th Congress, comprising 19.1% of House members and down slightly from 2015. Of these, 62 are Democrats and 21 are Republicans. In addition, five women serve as nonvoting delegates to Congress, representing American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Jeannette Rankin (R-Mont.) was the first woman to be elected to Congress, taking office in 1917. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the only woman to have served as speaker of the House. She was speaker from 2007 to 2011 and is now the House minority leader.

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Women in state legislatures, 1971-2017

Year Share of state legislators who are women
1971 4.5%
1973 6.4%
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 24.3%
2016 24.4%
2017 24.8%

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University.

Pew Research Center

Women make up 22.4% of state senate seats and 25.7% of state house or assembly seats. Twelve women serve in one of the top leadership posts in state senates, and an additional six are 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. Vermont is the state with the largest share of female state legislators, at 40.0%. Wyoming has the smallest share, at 11.1%.

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Women governors, 1975-2017

Year Share of state governors who are women
1975 2.0%
1976 2.0%
1977 4.0%
1978 4.0%
1979 4.0%
1980 4.0%
1981 0.0%
1982 0.0%
1983 0.0%
1984 2.0%
1985 4.0%
1986 4.0%
1987 6.0%
1988 6.0%
1989 6.0%
1990 6.0%
1991 6.0%
1992 6.0%
1993 6.0%
1994 8.0%
1995 2.0%
1996 2.0%
1997 4.0%
1998 6.0%
1999 6.0%
2000 6.0%
2001 10.0%
2002 10.0%
2003 12.0%
2004 18.0%
2005 16.0%
2006 16.0%
2007 18.0%
2008 16.0%
2009 14.0%
2010 12.0%
2011 12.0%
2012 12.0%
2013 10.0%
2014 10.0%
2015 10.0%
2016 12.0%
2017 8.0%

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University.

Pew Research Center

To date, 37 women have served as governors in 27 states. In 2017, two Democratic and two Republican women are serving as governors: Mary Fallin (R-Okla.), Kate Brown (D-Ore.), Susana Martinez (R-N.M.) and Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.). Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming, a Democrat, was the first female governor; she was elected in a special election in 1925 to succeed her deceased husband. Ella Grasso, a Connecticut Democrat, was the first female governor elected in her own right, in 1975.

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Women in the U.S. Cabinet

Administration Women
Johnson 0.0%
Nixon, term 1 0.0%
Nixon, term 2 N/A
Ford 4.5%
Carter 11.1%
Reagan, term 1 17.6%
Reagan, term 2 17.6%
G.H.W. Bush 17.6%
Clinton, term 1 31.8%
Clinton, term 2 40.9%
G.W. Bush, term 1 19.0%
G.W. Bush, term 2 23.8%
Obama, term 1 30.4%
Obama, term 2 34.8%
Trump, to date 2017 21.1%

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. Figure for Trump’s first term is the percent of women appointees confirmed as of March 7, 2017, out of the total number of Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions confirmed at that time. 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 40.9%. It now stands at 21.1%. 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 or Cabinet-level position.

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Women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, 1995-2017

Year Share of CEOs who are women
1995 0.0%
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 4.8%
2015 4.8%
2016 4.2%
2017 5.4%

Source: Fortune 500 and Catalyst.

Note: Prior to 2017, based on the percentage of women CEOs at the time of the annual published Fortune 500 list. For 2017, share is as of the end of the first quarter.

Pew Research Center

The share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies topped 5% for the first time in the first quarter of 2017, with 27 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. As recently as 1995, there were no female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list.

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Women Fortune 500 board members, 1995-2016

Year Share of board members who are women
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%
2016 20.2%

Source: Catalyst and Deloitte.

Pew Research Center

The share of women sitting on the boards of Fortune 500 companies has more than doubled, from 9.6% in 1995 to 20.2% in 2016.

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Women college presidents, 1986-2011

Year Share of university and 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 in 1994 became the first permanent female president of an Ivy League institution (University of Pennsylvania).

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Note: This interactive was originally published in January 2015. It was updated in March 2017 to reflect more recent data.