Nationwide the number of women in policy-making positions dropped from 35 percent in 2001 to 32 percent in 2003, according to the report, conducted by the university's Center for Women in Government & Civil Society.
Judith R. Saidel, the director of the center and author of the survey, said the report shows thatprogress for women requires continued efforts to erase disparities in government and the work force.
"Women's progress and the progress of men and women of color is not inevitable," Saidel said. "Maryland's ranking has slipped dramatically, which is disappointing given Maryland's earlier record of leadership in this area."
The drop in Maryland's ranking occurred during the same year that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Maryland's first Republican governor in three decades, took office. Ehrlich's appointees reflect a diversity of race and party affiliation, but based on the survey results, he is lagging behind his predecessor in regard to appointing women.
Shareese N. DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman, said she finds the ranking difficult to believe when the state has several women in policy-making positions, including Nancy S. Grasmick, schools superintendent; Mary Ann Saar, public safety and corrections secretary; Jean W. Roesser, secretary of aging; Audrey E. Scott, planning secretary; and Sharon R. Pinder, minority affairs director.
"I'm not saying [the report is] inaccurate, but I find that difficult to believe," DeLeaver said. "There has been a concerted effort by this administration to find the best people for the job. That has included a good number of women."
Of the 23 gubernatorial Cabinet positions including lieutenant governor, women hold five, or 22 percent, of those jobs.
Saidel's survey showed that overall, Maryland reported 21.1 percent of its top appointed positions were held by women, including heads of departments, agencies, offices, boards, commissions and authorities as well as such top advisers as chief of staff, government liaison and press secretary.
The study developed the ranking by comparing the percentage of women in policy-making positions with the number of women in the state's population. Women in Maryland make up 51.7 percent of the population and 21.1 percent of the top appointed positions.
"It certainly appears that executive appointees do not look like the people they are serving," Saidel said.