This male-dominated 1953 photo of a National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) annual meeting would not have been a surprise to public sector leaders of the time. Not many people would have expected back in Eisenhower’s first term that women would be in important budgetary leadership positions in the states.
But 70 years later, a lot has changed, as evidenced by the recent NASBO webinar that featured three of NASBO’s current leaders: Oregon’s Kate Nass, who served as NASBO president from 2020 to 2022; Colorado’s Lauren Larson (2022-2023) and Ohio’s Kimberly Murnieks, who starts her term as president in July.
Also participating in the webinar was Moody’s Analytics economist Emily Mandel, and the current NASBO executive director, Shelby Kerns. This is the first time that all three top executive officers of the membership association are held by women, and Kerns notes that it is reflective of a demographic shift in membership that has occurred over many years. “I’m glad this resonates with women who are looking for models of strong, smart women leaders,” she says. “Lauren, Kim and Kate were elected by their peers – women and men – because they stand out as leaders in their states and in their profession.”
Demographic shifts occur slowly over time. In the 1990s, when we were first researching and reporting about state government management, NASBO saw the first woman elected to the role of president – Nevada’s Judy Matteucci. That was followed by two budget directors we knew well -- Kansas’s Gloria Timmer in 1996-1997 and Utah’s Lynne Koga the following year. In 1998, Timmer was appointed the first female NASBO executive director. (We remember fondly the tour she gave us of the Topeka Capitol in the late 1990s, and were saddened, as were so many people, by her untimely death in October 2000.)
The percentage of women in NASBO’s membership, which is typically made up of the top three budgetary positions as reported by states and territories, has more than doubled since the time when Matteucci took the role of president. In 1992-1993, there were 26 females out of 147 listed or 18%. By 2023, females held 68 positions out of 178 listed or 38%.
Below is a photo from the 2019 annual membership meeting in Seattle, which provides a powerful visual picture of the shift that has occurred over the years. On the left side from front to back are Beth Ashcroft, state budget officer, Maine, and Bran Shim, Finance Director, Massachusetts. On the right side from front to back are Bakia Parrish, budget administrator, Georgia; Chris Wells, division director, Georgia, and Melissa Moats, division director, Georgia. (Note that titles and positions are from 2019.)
“The change does stand out when you see it in pictures,” Kerns says.
(This blog post was originally published in a slightly different form on March 14, 2023. The original on our website was accidentally overwritten and we’re re-publishing it now.)