New Research Highlights Benefits of Gender Diversity, Best Practices for Empowering More Women to Serve in Public Office

“When women lead, everyone wins.”

KANSAS CITY – In the wake of a historic year for women candidates, the Women’s Foundation’s Appointments Project® today released new research on the benefits of gender diversity and a set of best practices to help municipal leaders increase the diversity and effectiveness of public boards and commissions. Despite the progress made in 2018, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of government, including among appointed members of civic boards and commissions.

“As a historic number of women officeholders sweeps into office nationwide, we’re committed to building on this momentum and empowering even more women to serve in public office,” said Wendy Doyle, President & CEO of the Women’s Foundation. “Last year’s boom of female candidates has been likened to a ‘pink wave’ – but the problem with waves is they recede. That’s why we’re focused on filling reservoirs of qualified, empowered women who will close the leadership gap once and for all.”

As of 2018, women represented only fifteen percent of city administrators and twenty-one percent of mayors. At the county level, research indicates more than half of county boards across the United States have no women on them at all.



The research shows that increasing gender diversity improves organizational effectiveness, increases public trust, and improves the lives of residents. In addition, female legislators in the US Congress have been found to be more bipartisan as a whole, and sustain a broader range of legislative agenda items over the course of their service.

“It’s important to note that achieving gender equity in public service won’t just benefit women – it will benefit everyone by improving governance and decision-making overall,” said Doyle. “When women lead, everyone wins.”

Throughout the year, the Women’s Foundation will be visiting communities across Missouri and Kansas to educate women about opportunities to serve in public office and encourage municipal leaders to increase the number of women they appoint to leadership roles. A list of upcoming trainings is available at:

The best practices, developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy, identify five strategies political executives can employ to increase the diversity and effectiveness of boards and commissions. Specifically:

  • Increase the ease and transparency of applying for positions. The application process should be easy to navigate and clear to both potential applicants and officials.

  • Conducting community outreach. Reaching out to individuals within the community to expand the pool of qualified candidates beyond those who normally seek vacant board positions.

  • Offering professional development and training. Commitment to professional development and training not only at the time of onboarding, but throughout a member’s time on the board, can help make a member more successful, which can translate to a more effective and trusted board.

  • Enacting formal policies and procedures. Developing formal policies and training members in how to implement them is important, but to make it actionable, boards should develop policies that make reporting, investigation, and decision-making processes clear.

  • Regularly assessing performance. Regularly assessing performance can provide boards and commissions with information about how well they are achieving their goals and help motivate improvement.

In 2014, the Women’s Foundation launched the Appointments Project®, which works to empower women and strengthen communities by increasing the gender diversity of civic boards and commissions and building a pipeline of qualified women with the experience to run for elected office.

The Appointments Project educates women on the need and importance of their representation on civic boards and commissions; manages a talent bank of women interested in serving on civic boards and commissions; and engages elected officials on the appointment process and the adoption of best practices.

The Women’s Foundation promotes equity and opportunity for women of all ages, using research, philanthropy and policy solutions to make meaningful change. More information about the organization can be found at