COLUMBIA — Women hold few seats on college boards and other policy-making bodies in South Carolina, despite making up more than 51 percent of the population.

That’s despite state law that calls for officials to strive to make sure that composition of boards is representative of all citizens of the state.

According to statistics compiled by The State newspaper, of the 121 board seats selected by the Legislature, 24 are women, less than 20 percent.

Nowhere is the lack of women more pronounced than at the Medical University of South Carolina, which has no women on its board. Several women are seeking seats on the college’s board this spring.

Minorities also hold relatively few seats on college boards.

A new group, Project XX, is hoping to boost the number of women on the boards and other public offices in South Carolina.

The group’s co-founder, Ginny Deerin of Charleston, attributes the gender gap to several factors.

She said a major reason is that boards and commissions are elected by the governor and the Legislature, a largely male-dominated group.

“And it’s a kind of thing where it’s a little bit insider baseball. The general public doesn’t know about boards becoming open,” Deerin said. Whatever the cause, the result is that most board applicants are male.

While state law urges officials to maintain diversity on boards, at the same time it dictates that the governor and the General Assembly elect board members “based on merit regardless of race, color, creed, or gender.”

Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.