Photo showing House Dems Women's Caucus announcing bills to improve health outcomes of new mothers and infancts.
The Kentucky House Democratic Women's Caucus unveiled the "Kentucky Maternal and Infant Health Project," a slate of more than 20 bills designed to significantly improve health outcomes for new mothers and infants. (photo by House Dems)

We all know that there are more women serving in our General Assembly than there used to be. But, exactly how much increase has there been? And how does that compare to states around us?

The nationwide trends

A story from the Pew Charitable Trusts notes that the trend of more women in politics is nationwide. The the percentage of women in state legislatures has increased from 23% to 30% over the past decade.

Even more important, women have begun moving into leadership positions, with 87 women now serving as speaker of the House, president of the Senate, speaker pro tempore, Senate president pro tempore or majority or minority leader in their state legislatures.

The story in Kentucky and surrounding states

So what has happened in Kentucky and our neighboring states over the past ten years? We’ve taken the numbers and put them into regional maps, to make it easier to see the trends.

The 2010 numbers

Ten years ago, Illinois had a higher percentage of women serving in its state legislature than any of the other states, at 28.2 percent. At the other end of the spectrum was Kentucky, at 15.9 percent.

The 2020 numbers

Ten years later, Illinois is still in front, but Kentucky has improved quite a bit.

Greatest increase in %age of women in the legislature? Kentucky

The most striking statistic, though, is the difference for each state over the past ten years. Some states have actually regressed in the percentage of women serving in their legislature, even with the nationwide trend going the other way.

Kentucky, on the other hand, saw the largest percentage increase of any of our neighboring states.

Why the dramatic change in Kentucky?

There are many possible reasons for this Kentucky trend:

  • The presence of Emerge Kentucky training women to run and then supporting them when they do;
  • The Women’s March in 2017, which galvanized women across the country;
  • The various activist groups in Kentucky, such as Indivisible and others, the majority of which are led by women;
  • And the example of a number of women who have served in Frankfort for years, and who have regularly encouraged other women to get involved.

Whatever the reason, it is definitely a point of pride for Kentucky to be leading the way in getting more women involved in state government.

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Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. He has been President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Metro Democratic Club, and has served on the Democratic Party Executive Committee in Louisville. He began blogging in 2004, and currently operates two personal blogs (BruceMaples.com and brucewriter.com). He founded Forward Kentucky in the wake of the state elections in 2015, and expanded it in the summer of 2016.
He has lived in Louisville since 1992 with his wife and two sons.