The Mayoral Glass Ceiling

Believe it or not, only one mayor of America's 25 most populous cities is a woman (Laura Miller of Dallas, pictured here). Though the extent to ...
by | November 16, 2005

Believe it or not, only one mayor of America's 25 most populous cities is a woman (Laura Miller of Dallas, pictured here). Though the extent to which men dominate big-city mayorships is surprising, this finding replicates a trend throughout U.S. government.

Laura_miller Women hold many career and appointed government positions. But they remain underrepresented in elected legislative positions and, most of all, elected executive positions. Only 14% of governors are women, compared to 22% of legislators. At the federal level, 14% of senators are women, but no woman has ever even sniffed a major-party presidential nomination.

I'm not sure what's the cause of this disparity. It certainly isn't a lack of examples of successful female executives. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Janet Napolitano of Arizona were both named to Time's list of best governors this week. Connecticut's Jodi Rell and Michigan's Jennifer Granholm are also both well-regarded. Earlier this year, Time named Atlanta's Shirley Franklin as one of America's best big-city mayors after Governing honored (look a third of the way down for Franklin's profile) her as a Public Official of the Year in 2004.

I noticed the lack of female mayors while doing demographic research on top state and local elected officials. Other tidbits:

-According to the National Governors Association bio book, only three governors are not married--and all three are women (one of them, Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware, has been widowed twice). Jon Corzine of New Jersey will join this exclusive club when he takes office in January.

-Slightly more mayors in the 25 most populous cities (44%) have law degrees than governors (40%).

-The average age of governors is 55, compared to 53 for legislators and 52 for mayors in the top 25 cities.

-A record 2% of governors are former Hollywood action stars and Austrian body-building champions.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman | Former Staff Writer | mailbox@governing.com