Gender in California City Governments: 200 Cities

Women Underrepresented in California Cities
Study finds that women are underrepresented in California city governments

We’ve been analyzing the state of women in California City Governments. and McKinsey and Co. have been studying the state of women in corporate America since 2015.  California has long been held as the leader in among states in gender equality.  We wanted to know how the state of women in California city governments compared to that of women in Corporate America.

We analyzed the employment data (Transparent California) of 200 California Cities.  Some questions we wanted to answer were,  “What percent of California city governments employees are women?   Our expectations were that the number of females employed by city governments should be about 50% because they should reflect the population of female residents in each particular city.   The reasons we expected this were threefold:

  1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states specifically that it is unlawful to fail to hire a person because of their sex. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 2000e-2. [Section 703])
  2. Women make up roughly 50% of residents of nearly every California city. (US Census)
  3. Women have earned more bachelors degrees than men for nearly 40 years (National Center for Education Statistics)

Because this study is building on previous work (the first 50 cities), we also wanted to know if a larger study would yield consistent results to our previous analysis.  Finally, we wanted to document the state of women in California’s public sector in 2017 for transparency and to serve as a benchmark for future work.


The average percent of females employed by California cities was 32%.

The median percent of females employed by California cities was 31%.

The mode (the observation that occurred most often) was 31%.

17 cities employed 10-20% females.

77 cities employed 21-30% females.

70 cities employed 31-40% females.

26 cities employed 41-50% females

9 cities employed 51-60% females: Jurupa Valley, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills, Norco, Perris, Monte Sereno, Indio, La Habra Heights, and San Joaquin

2 cities employed 61-70% females, Laguna Woods and Aliso Viejo.


Our observations of the hiring practices in California city governments were consistent with those observed by Lean In & McKinsey.  Most (92.5%) of the cities we studied employed fewer than 50% females. 47% of the cities we observed employed fewer than 30% females.  As in Corporate America, women that work in city governments in California often find themselves to be the “only” woman in the department, on the team, or in the meeting.

According to LeanIn and McKinsey, being the only woman in a work situation has many challenges including an increased incidence of being the subject of microaggressions like having their abilities challenged, exclusion from networking and social opportunities, unprofessional and/or demeaning remarks.  “Only” females were also found to be nearly twice as likely to have been sexually harassed at some point in their careers.

We compared our results from this study to our results from our previous study (50 cities) and found no significant difference in the results.

Our hope is that by bringing these figures to light, we will create space for gender equity conversations in California city governments and inspire California cities to implement processes that will improve women’s representation.  By making city governments more inclusive, we have the power to create cities that are more responsive to the needs of all of their residents.  We also make work environments safer and more respectful for everyone which frees all employees to focus on bringing their whole selves to work and doing their own best job.



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