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Top stories of the 2010s: The decade that Iowa's political glass ceiling cracked

Kim Reynolds, Joni Ernst among women taking seats at elected leadership tables

Gov. Kim Reynolds shares a moment with Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, after delivering her Condition
Gov. Kim Reynolds shares a moment with Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, after delivering her Condition of the State address Jan. 9, 2018, to a joint assembly of the Iowa Legislature in Des Moines. Reynolds was the first woman to be elected Iowa governor. Upmeyer was the first female speaker of the Iowa House. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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The eve of a new decade presents a perfect time to reflect on the past 10 years, to look at the changes in our lives and in our state and nation. For Iowa, The Gazette chose 10 storylines of the decade that have changed or will change the state’s trajectory. This is one of those stories. See the full list and read them here.

By 2010, Iowa had never had a female governor, U.S. senator or U.S. representative.

By 2020, the state had four women in seats of political power.

Joni Ernst of Red Oak landed the first punch to the particular glass ceiling in 2014, winning election to the U.S. Senate as a Republican.

Kim Reynolds, who was Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s lieutenant governor for seven years, became governor in May 2017 when Branstad was appointed U.S. ambassador to China. She was elected governor in her own right in 2018, besting Democrat Fred Hubbell in the most expensive gubernatorial race in Iowa history.

It was the same year Iowans elected Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne to the U.S. House.

As of 2019, women were half of Iowa’s six-person congressional delegation.

In 2010, nine women were in the Iowa Senate. Today, they fill 11 of the 50 seats.

In 2010, 26 women were in the Iowa House. Today, 33 of the 100 members are women.

That means almost 30 percent of Iowa’s lawmakers are women, up from 23 percent at the start of the decade.

Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, became the first female speaker of the Iowa House in 2015. Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, was elected president of the Iowa Senate in 2013, the second woman to hold that post.

At the start of the decade, Maggie Tinsman, a former Republican state senator from Davenport, and Jean Lloyd-Jones, a former Democratic state senator from Iowa City, created a group called 50-50 in 2020.

It was nonpartisan and issue-neutral. Its goal was to encourage more women to seek political office, and it backed up that goal with workshops, mentors and training.

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Its five goals for 2020 were to have 25 women in the Iowa Senate; 50 women in the Iowa House; one woman governor; one woman in the U.S. Senate; and two women in the U.S. House.

Three of those five goals were met in a decade that saw the number of women seeking state or federal office double.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.