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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.

Despite gains, women still underrepresented on NJ boards, commissions

Most gains attributed to Murphy cabinet appointees

By Nikita Biryukov, September 18 2019 3:25 pm

While Gov. Phil Murphy has appointed a majority-woman cabinet, women remain underrepresented on the state’s boards and commissions, a study by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics found.

Before Murphy took office in January 2018, women accounted for 18% of positions on the 58 state boards and commissions CAWP examined.

That number had risen to 27% by July of 2019, but much of the rise was attributed to the high number of women appointed to cabinet-level positions.

Of the 119 appointments Murphy made in the 18-month span, 72, or 61%, went to women, but 67 of those positions were held by women in Murphy’s cabinet.

By contrast, Murphy’s cabinet accounted for 27 of the 47 appointments men received under the same period.

“Murphy’s appointment of a majority-women cabinet is important in and of itself, but the impact of that leadership cascades, as these cabinet members assume roles on boards and commissions,” said CAWP Director Debbie Walsh. “For instance, because of the governor’s appointment of Elizabeth Maher Muoio as the State Treasurer and Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, there is a woman serving on the New Jersey Lottery Commission and on the Turnpike Authority, respectively, for the first time in years.”

The center recommended Murphy appoint women to the 82 vacancies remaining vacancies on the state’s boards and commissions.

Only seven of the bodies examined had women holding half of the seats or more, though New Jersey is only allotted a single seat to a small number of the boards and commissions included in the study.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin can also reduce the disparity in representation, though they have a smaller number of vacant seats — four and five, respectively — to fill.

“With 82 vacancies, the potential is there,” Walsh said.

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