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NC Council for Women & Youth Involvement Unveils 2020 Status of Women Political Participation Report Data

The NC Department of Administration’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement today unveiled data from the 2020 Status of Women in North Carolina: Political Participation Report in a virtual event.  Event speakers included: Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, NC Senator Valerie Foushee (D-23), and Sara Preston, Executive Director of Lillian’s List of North Carolina. This report is the third of four to be released by the Council in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research to bring awareness to key issues affecting the lives of women in North Carolina.

Moderated by Council Director Mary Williams-Stover, the event offered a review of data and policy recommendations from the 2020 Political Participation Report by Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) Study Director Elyse Shaw and a call to action by the Department of Administration's (DOA) Secretary Machelle Sanders.

The report presents data on several aspects of women’s involvement in the political process in North Carolina, including comparisons to other states and the nation. It includes data on voter registration and turnout, female state and federal elected and appointed representation, and state-based institutional resources for women.

Data from the report shows that, while some progress has been made in women’s political participation in North Carolina, obstacles persist at all levels.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Secretary Machelle Sanders, “and now is the time to do it.  The Institute for Women’s Policy Research gives us a “D” rating for women’s political participation – we can do better than that. When more women are involved in civic life – from voting to community organizing, to running for office – the issues that matter most to women and their families get more action and traction.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • While North Carolina women have been voting at slightly higher rates in recent years, their representation in elected office has declined.
  • While women make up 51 percent of our state’s population, the majority of North Carolina political office holders at the state and federal levels remain male.
  • Women make up just 25 percent of the North Carolina General Assembly and only a third of statewide elected executive office seats.
  • At the current rate of change, it will be the year 2084 before women reach parity in the Legislature.

“Women in North Carolina have seen a decrease in representation in statewide elected office,” said IWPR study director, Elyse Shaw. “In 2015, North Carolina women held more than half (55 percent) of the statewide elected offices, but this fell to a third (33 percent) of statewide elected offices in 2020.”

The Political Participation Composite Index featured in this year’s report combines four component indicators of women’s political status: voter registration, voter turnout, representation in elected office, and women’s institutional resources. North Carolina ranks 35th in the United States overall on the Political Participation Composite Index – earning the state a “D” grade on the index.

“Research shows that women express concerns about issues like education, health care, the environment, Social Security and Medicare at higher rates than men,” said Council Director Mary Williams-Stover. “The engagement of all women in the political process ensures that these issues are addressed in ways that reflect the needs of women from diverse backgrounds – and their families.”

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Preparing strategies to ensure the safety of voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes increasing electronic voter registration, expanding use of absentee ballots and mail in voting, and making election day a paid holiday so those who are able to make it to the polls have the time off from work needed to wait in longer, socially distanced lines. Additional activities could also include increasing the number of polling locations to help cut down the number of people voting at one location.
  • Ensuring that all women have equal access to a fair electoral process. This includes implementing a fair system of drawing the state’s political maps – to combat gerrymandering – and eliminating unjust voter ID laws that disenfranchise vulnerable women.
  • Recruiting more women to run for office and supporting women with mentoring, sponsorship, and education and training programs. Asking and encouraging women to run for political office is a vital part of increasing women’s representation in office at all levels.

In addition to key data, this year’s report features female leaders from across the state and their thoughts on political engagement.

Additional report launch events will be held on Aug. 18th and Aug. 25th.  Speakers for the Aug. 18th event include Greensboro Commissioner Marikay Abuzuaiter, Dr. Whitney Manzo of Meredith College, and Representative Sarah Stevens (R-90), House Speaker Pro Tempore of the NC General Assembly. 

Speakers for the Aug. 25th event include: Pitt County Sheriff Paula DanceJo Nicholas, President of the NC League of Women Voters; and District Court Judge Robin Robinson (5th District).

As follow up to the August launch events, leaders from the Council and DOA will hold meetings with elected officials at all levels to share the report findings, and will conduct regional virtual events this fall to hear local community input on the status of women.

To request a Council presentation on the report findings, click here .

The full 2020 Political Participation report will be available on the Council for Women and Youth Involvement website on Women’s Equality Day, August 26th.

The Status of Women in NC report on Earnings and Employment was released in 2018.  The report on Health and Wellness was released in 2019.  The final Status of Women report in this series will cover Poverty and Opportunity.

More information is available on the Status of Women in North Carolina web page.


About DOA

Established in 1957, the Department of Administration acts as the business manager for North Carolina state government. Under the leadership of Secretary Machelle Sanders since appointed by Governor Roy Cooper in 2017, the department oversees Government Operations and advocacy programs. The department’s advocacy programs provide advocacy, assistance, and services to diverse segments of the state’s population that have been traditionally underserved.


The North Carolina Council for Women and Youth Involvement (CFWYI) is a division of the North Carolina Department of Administration.  The mission of the Council is to advise the Governor, state legislators and state leaders on issues that impact women and youth.

About IWPR

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences.IWPR also works in collaboration with the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University.