Special Report

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

Wichita, Kansas
Source: Thinkstock

41. Kansas
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 76.6% (15th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 35.9% (7th lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 10.1% (25th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 24.8% (25th lowest)

When women hold elected office, they are more likely to introduce legislation that helps marginalized groups. In Kansas, less than a quarter of the state legislature is comprised of women and only one of the six elected officials that represent the state on Capitol Hill is female.

With few female lawmakers, Kansas does not offer some protections that are common elsewhere for women in the workforce. There are no major state mandated pregnancy accommodations and no paid family leave for either private or public sector employees.

Birmingham, Alabama cloudy
Source: Thinkstock

42. Alabama
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 76.1% (13th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 38.7% (17th lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 6% (20th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 14.3% (5th lowest)

Alabama has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, and it is an even greater problem for women in the state. One in four women live in poverty, and they account for 56.5% of the state’s poor population. The state’s substantial wage gap is a significant contributing factor. The typical female worker in the state earns 76 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterpart.

Gallatin County, Montana
Source: Thinkstock

43. Montana
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 72.5% (6th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 37.9% (11th lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 0% (the lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 31.3% (8th highest)

By some measures, Montana has a history of giving women opportunities to influence public affairs. In 1914, several years before the 19th Amendment was passed, Montana became one of the first states in the country to give women the right to vote. Today, women account for more than 30% of the state legislature, a higher share than in most states.

However, the state is behind by some other important measures of women’s equality. For example, it is one of just eight to have no state-funded pre-K programs.

Indianapolis, Indiana
Source: Thinkstock

44. Indiana
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 75.9% (12th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 40.8% (17th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 0% (the lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 20.7% (16th lowest)

State-funded day care programs are important as their presence means families are not forced to make tough decisions in balancing careers and child care. Indiana does not offer taxpayer-funded pre-K, however, and as a result, many parents with young children must either leave the workforce or incur the high cost of private daycare.

Women are also less likely to hold elected office in Indiana than in most other states. In the 200 years since Indiana became a state, a woman has never once been elected governor.

North Dakota Badlands
Source: Thinkstock

45. North Dakota
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 71.1% (5th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 31.1% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 0% (the lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 19.1% (13th lowest)

One of the most important measures of women’s equality in the workplace is their ability to be promoted to higher-paying roles. In North Dakota, just 31.1% of all management occupations are held by women, a smaller share than in any state except for South Dakota.
North Dakota is one of just eight states with no pre-K funding, which can help young families save money on childcare, and makes it easier for mothers to return to work after having children.

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