From Data to Diversity

The Demographics of New Jersey's Appointed Officials


Obtaining demographic data on New Jersey’s public officials has been a priority for some state legislators, activists, journalists, and scholars for many years. For the past three decades, CAWP has managed the New Jersey Bipartisan Coalition for Women’s Appointments (BCWA), a statewide, bipartisan group of prominent women and organizations convened in years when there is an open seat for governor. The purpose of BCWA is to ensure the placement of women in key appointed positions throughout state government. BCWA convened for the first time in 1981 and was most recently convened in 2017. Many of the individuals who have served on BCWA have also individually and with other organizations pushed for greater representation of underrepresented groups on state boards and commissions, including women. In addition to BCWA, throughout the years several state legislators and other public leaders have issued calls to increase transparency on the demographics of those currently serving on state boards and commissions, as well as demographic information about applicants, in order to intentionally work towards greater diversity and equity in representation in appointed offices.  

As part of BCWA’s efforts, CAWP has studied the gender representation of some of the state’s top boards and commissions. In 2005, CAWP examined a total of 63 boards and commissions in New Jersey, which had a total of 613 members. These included all boards and commissions requiring financial disclosure at the time, plus certain other boards and commissions with high levels of responsibility and policymaking authority2. Of the boards studied, 22% of appointed members were women, 73% were men, and 5% of seats were vacant. In re-examining those same boards in 2019, the data showed a slight improvement: 27% of the appointed members were women, 55% were men, and 18% of seats were vacant3

In 2021, then-New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, along with Senator Linda R. Greenstein and Assemblymembers Shavonda Sumter, Daniel Benson, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (with co-sponsors Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Gordon Johnson and Assemblymembers Yvonne Lopez, Clinton Calabrese, and William Moen) sponsored S4004/A5950, which read: “The Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University, shall establish and maintain two databases that contain for every person appointed to a State board, commission, authority, or other multi-member entity, and for every elected public official in this State, excluding school boards, the name of the individual, the title of the office held, the term of office, the race and the gender identity or expression of that individual, and the appointing authority.” The bill directed the Eagleton Institute to transmit a survey form to all appointed officials to collect this information. Notably, the original legislation passed by the legislature included this language regarding the creation of the appointed officials’ database: “The Governor or other appointing authority shall provide to the Institute contact information for all currently serving appointees in order to survey all current appointees. The Governor or other appointing authority shall sign the request to complete the form.” During a conditional veto of the legislation, Governor Murphy struck the language about the governor or appointing authority providing contact information for all currently serving appointees, changing the text to “The transmission by the Governor or other appointing authority to the Institute of contact information for appointees shall not be deemed a violation of any law, rule, or regulation concerning the confidentiality or privacy of such information.” The governor also struck the line “The Governor or other appointing authority shall sign the request to complete the form.” These changes created major challenges to data collection (pertaining to response rates) which are elaborated on in the findings and recommendations section of this report. 

The legislation specifically named the Eagleton Institute’s Center for American Women and Politics in partnership with its Center for Public Interest Polling to collect this information; the expectation was the two Centers’ expertise in data collection and analysis would be helpful in the creation of the databases and in codifying a process that could be sustained long-term. CAWP is nationally recognized as the leading source of scholarly research and current data about women’s political participation in the United States. Since its inception, CAWP has been collecting demographic data on women officeholders and candidates nationwide. This data is used by scholars, researchers, and the media and is highly regarded for its use of self-identification in determining race codes. With its legacy of data collection in this area, CAWP researchers managed and provided the infrastructure for this project by compiling the lists of appointed officials, building out the public database, and synthesizing results for a public audience. ECPIP is the oldest university-based statewide survey research center in the United States. ECPIP conducts scientifically rigorous survey research, often in collaboration with government agencies, non-profit organizations, and university faculty and staff. For this project, ECPIP was tasked with implementing the survey to the appointed officials in the state. This included email and phone outreach as well as research into alternative contact information. 

This report focuses specifically on the appointed officials data project; simultaneously, CAWP and ECPIP collected data on the state's elected officials, and a report on those findings was published in September 2023.

2 Note that a subgroup of boards was selected for the sake of feasibility; this subgroup represented some of the state’s most visible boards along with all boards requiring financial disclosure at the time.
3 Five of the original 63 boards examined in 2005 no longer existed in 2019; the number of boards studied was 58.