The number of women appointed to state government leadership posts is slowly inching up, but men still hold more than two of every three gubernatorial appointments nationwide, a recent study shows.

Less than 30 percent of the top policymakers chosen by governors are women, according to the study by the Center for Women in Government.

With women representing 52 percent of the population in the United States, they still have a long way to go before they are equitably represented in powerful positions such as department heads and top gubernatorial advisers, said Judith Saidel, the center's executive director and the study's project director.

"You haven't reached representative democracy until you reach those numbers," said Saidel, whose center is a division of the State University of New York at Albany.

Still, the 29.8 percent of appointees who are female this year is 0.4 percentage points higher than last year, she said. It also is higher than the 28.3 percent in 1997, the year the center started tracking the appointments, she said.

Women also hold 28 percent of the nation's statewide elected offices, such as governors and attorneys general, and account for 22 percent of state legislators, the report said.

One group that is making tremendous progress is Hispanic women, Saidel said.

Across the nation, 20 Hispanic women direct public agencies, boards and commissions, up from seven in 1997-98. "This may be a recognition of the growing population and political clout of the Latinos," Saidel said.

Hispanics make up about 30 million of America's population and forecasts are that they will pass blacks as the country's largest minority group in five years.

During that same period, blacks and Asians each lost one woman in the leadership positions, dropping blacks to 30 and Asians to six this year.

The state with the highest ranking this year was Vermont, where women make up 50 percent of the state appointees and 51 percent of the population. At the bottom is Oklahoma, where women hold 14 percent of the appointed government positions.