History of the ICSW

In the 1960s, a recommendation was made by the U.S. Commission on the Status of Women, established by President Kennedy, that Governors set up Commissions on the Status of Women in their states. Governor Hughes and Governor Ray both had Governor's Commissions. In 1972 the Iowa General Assembly voted to create the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW), making it statutory and therefore more permanent.

State government reorganization in 1986 placed the ICSW as a division within the newly-created umbrella agency, the Iowa Department of Human Rights (DHR). ICSW advocacy at that time reinforced the importance of the ICSW maintaining its visibility and autonomy. The legislation made the position of division administrator appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the governor, with Senate confirmation; the chairperson was to be elected by the Commission rather than appointed by the governor. The division administrator was mandated to carry out the program and policy as determined by the Commission.

Until 1987, there were 24 members of the ICSW; in 1987, legislation passed to require nine public members (appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate), four non-voting ex officio legislative members, and the director of the DHR, ex officio. Gender balance was mandated for the ICSW, as for all other state boards and commissions; it was already required that no more than a simple majority of members may be of one political party.

In 2011, legislation passed to create the Office on the Status of Women within the Iowa Department of Human Rights. The legislation required the Office on the Status of Women to do the following:
1. Serve as the central permanent agency to advocate for women and girls.
2. Coordinate and cooperate with the efforts of state departments and agencies to serve
the needs of women and girls in participating fully in the economic, social, and cultural life
of the state, and provide direct assistance to individuals who request it.
3. Serve as a clearinghouse on programs and agencies operating to assist women and
girls.
4. Develop, coordinate, and assist other public or private organizations which serve
women and girls.

The 2011 legislation also changed the requirement of nine public members of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women to seven public members (appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate) and gave the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women the following powers and duties:
1. Study the opportunities for and changing needs of the women and girls of this state.
2. Serve as liaison between the Office on the Status of Women and the public, sharing information and gathering constituency input.
3. Recommend to the Department of Human Rights board the adoption of rules as it deems necessary for the commission and the Office on the Status of Women.
4. Recommend legislative and executive action to the governor and general assembly.
5. Establish advisory committees, work groups, or other coalitions as appropriate.