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March 3, 1998

Women in State Offices in Alabama:

The Numbers

by Harbinger Staff

Despite the fact that women make up 50 percent of registered voters in Alabama, only a handful of women serve in the Alabama legislature. In the Alabama legislature, six out of 140 members are women (4.3 percent). Alabama continues to hold the distinction of being 50th of all states in the number of women in the state legislature. Those numbers are surprising, if not dumbfounding, when compared to Kentucky (ranked 49th) where the state legislature is 9.4 percent female, twice the percentage of Alabama, or Mississippi, which far surpasses Alabama with 11 percent female in the state legislature.

According to Rutgers University's Center for the American Women in Politics (CAWP), the states with the highest percentage of women in government are Washington with 38 percent, Arizona with 37 percent, and California with 35 percent.

While Alabama ranks last in women representation in the state legislature, it is not last in total number of women in elected state offices. According to CAWP, Alabama ranks 47th in total number of women in elected office. Three women currently hold statewide elective seats in Alabama, including State Treasurer Lucy Baxley, State Auditor Patsy Duncan, and Public Service Commissioner Jan Cook.

There are no Alabama women in the U.S. House of Representative or the Senate. The percentage of women in the U.S. Congress is 11 percent. In other countries, the progress of women at the national government level exceeds the United States. In fact, some countries have adopted quotas to insure minimum representation of women. Ten countries have crossed the 30 percent threshold, the minimum proportion of women in national legislatures recommended in 1990 by the United Nations Commission on the status of women. Sweden, with 41 percent, has the world's largest proportion of women legislators, with Norway, Finland and Denmark close behind. In 1997, women obtained astonishing gains in the British Parliament when over 100 women labor party candidates swept the polls to become members of the hallowed male halls.

The Judiciary

Women running for positions in the judiciary fared well in the last elections. Three of the five judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals are women, and one woman sits on the five-member Court of Civil Appeals. Janie Shores is the only female elected to the 11-member State Supreme Court.

According to the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC), ten women serve as Circuit Court Judges in Alabama, which represents 7.6 percent of the total. Fifteen out of 99 district court judges are women, (or 15 percent). All of these judges are elected, as are the clerks in these courts.

All three District Court Clerks are women, and 23 of the 68 Circuit Clerks are female. There are 239 Municipal Courts across the state in which judges are appointed by municipal governing bodies.

No statistics are available on the gender breakdown in these courts. In Alabama law schools, more than 50 percent of the students are women. Whether the rising number of women in the legal profession will tilt the numbers in the judiciary toward parity remains to be seen.

Authorities, Boards, and Commissions

A report on minority representation in boards and commissions by the Alabama Department of Public Accounts indicates that female representation in Alabama authorities, boards and commission is only 22 percent, or a total of 436, as compared to 1,551 males. As reported in the 1996 Alabama Women's Commission Report, a total of 440 women received appointments in commissions during 1995 and 1996, indicating that there were apparently few women in these appointments prior to 1995. While women have made some headway in this arena, many of the influential boards that determine critical policies affecting everyone's life remain all male.


WOMEN IN ALABAMA STATE LEGISLATURE (LAST 10 YEARS)

YearSenateHouseTotal %
Overall
National
Ranking
19982 of 354 of 1056 of 1404.350
19972 of 354 of 1056 of 1404.350
19961 of 354 of 1055 of 1403.650
19951 of 354 of 1055 of 1403.650
19942 of 356 of 1058 of 1405.750
19932 of 356 of 1058 of 1495.749
19921 of 357 of 1058 of 1405.750
19911 of 357 of 1058 of 1405.748
19901 of 357 of 1058 of 1405.749
19891 of 357 of 1058 of 1405.748

WOMEN IN STATE LEGISLATURE (ALL STATES)

YearNo. of Women
Legislators
% of Total
Legislators
19693014.0
19734245.6
19776889.1
198190812.1
19851,10314.8
19891,27017.0
19931,52420.5
19971,60521.6
19981,60521.6

SOURCE: Center for the American Women and Politicis, Rutgers University


TEN STATES WITH HIGHEST PERCENT OF WOMEN STATE LEGISLATORS

State% Women      State% Women
Washington39.5      Minnesota30.8
Arizona37.8      New Hampshire30.7
Colorado35.0      Maryland29.8
Nevada33.3      Kansas29.7
Vermont33.3      Connecticut28.9

TEN STATES WITH LOWEST PERCENT OF WOMEN STATE LEGISLATORS

State% Women      State% Women
Alabama4.3      Mississippi12.6
Kentucky9.4      South Carolina12.9
Oklahoma10.1      Alaska13.3
Louisiana11.8      Tennessee13.6
Pennsylvania12.3      West Virginia14.9

SOURCE: Center for the American Women and Politics, Rutgers University.


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