The Best and Worst States for Women: Ranking Gender Inequality in America

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Castle Hill Lighthouse, Rhode Island

1. Rhode Island
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 85.8% (5th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 43.6% (5th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 1.4% (11th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 27.4% (18th highest)

Across a range of measures related to health, leadership, and financial security, Rhode Island is the best state in the country for women. With mandated special accommodations for pregnant workers and expansions to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 for both private and public sector jobs, Rhode Island has taken considerable steps to address gender inequality.

Female representation in leadership roles is also an important component of gender equality. In November 2014, Rhode Island voters elected Gina Raimondo as governor. Raimondo is one of six sitting female governors in the country and the first in Rhode Island history.

New York City, New York

2. New York
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 88.7% (the highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 41.6% (12th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 23.9% (11th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 24.4% (24th lowest)

Nationwide, women earn only 80% of what their male counterparts earn. While the pay gap exists in every state, it is smallest in New York, where women earn 88.7% of the median male salary.

Providing state-funded pre-K programs for three- and four-year-olds is important for gender equality as it allows for both parents to participate in the workforce. New York spends an above average amount on pre-K programs per student. In addition, 23.9% of three- and four-year-olds in the Empire State are enrolled in a public pre-K program, far more than most states.

flower bed in the street, San Jose, California

3. California
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 85.7% (6th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 40.7% (19th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 12.9% (23rd highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 25.8% (20th highest)

Women hold a relatively high share of government leadership positions in California. Of all 55 of the state’s congressional representatives, 38.2% are female.

Included among them are some of the most influential leaders in Washington. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who represents the state’s 12 District, was the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history. Additionally, both California senators are female, including Senior Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is vice chairperson of the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Portland Oregon

4. Oregon
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 80.8% (20th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 40.8% (17th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 8.2% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 31.1% (9th highest)

A strong pre-K program can be extremely beneficial for women who might otherwise have to take additional time off or pay out of pocket for childcare. And Oregon has one of the best-funded pre-K systems in the country, with $8,648 in state money apportioned per child.

Oregon has a number of other mother-friendly policies. It is one of just a handful of states to mandate that private sector companies with at least 10 employees allow workers to use paid sick days for prenatal or postnatal care.

Hartford, Connecticut

5. Connecticut
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 82.4% (14th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 40.4% (22nd highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 16.2% (18th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 28.3% (15th highest)

By a number of measures related to health, financial security, and legislation, Connecticut is the fifth best state for women in the country and the second best in New England. The pay gap between men and women is slightly smaller than it is nationwide, and Connecticut voters have elected more women to fill state legislature and congressional delegate seats than is typical.

Of the 37 female state governors in U.S. history, two served in the Nutmeg State. Elected in 1974 to the highest office in state politics, Ella Grasso was the first female governor in Connecticut and the first in the country not to be married to a former governor.