Special Report

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

Honolulu Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Source: Thinkstock

6. Hawaii
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 84.1% (8th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 42.5% (9th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 1% (10th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 28.9% (14th highest)

In every state in the country, a larger share of women than men live in poverty. In Hawaii, however, just 52.3% of women in the state live in poverty, compared to a national share of 55.4%.

This relatively small gap can likely be explained in part by the state’s relatively small gender pay gap. Women in the state earn 84 cents for every dollar earned by the typical male. Nationwide, the typical female worker earns only 80% of the median earnings for men.

Montpelier, Vermont
Source: Thinkstock

7. Vermont
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 83.8% (9th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 43.6% (5th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 54.6% (the highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 40.6% (2nd highest)

Pre-K can be invaluable to mothers — in addition to aiding in their child’s development at a crucial age, it affords them the opportunity to work, and also helps them avoid otherwise costly daycare services.

This July, roughly two years after the pre-K mandate law was initially passed, Vermont became the first state in the country to officially implement universal, publicly-funded, pre kindergarten programs for three- and four-year-old children. As of the 2014-2015 school year, the state already had the highest enrollment, at 54.6%, and this figure will likely rise in the coming years.

View of the beach and skyline in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Source: Thinkstock

8. New Jersey
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 82.0% (16th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 37.6% (8th lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 23.6% (12th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 30.0% (11th highest)

New Jersey spends more on pre-K education than any other state. The state allocates the equivalent of $12,149 per child on pre-K education, well more than double the national average. In addition to the state’s higher spending per student, New Jersey has relatively high pre-K enrollment — 23.6% of three- and four-year-olds in New Jersey are enrolled in state pre-K programs. Early childhood education is important for cognitive development and allows both parents to participate in the workforce.

Bellevue Washington from Lake with Mountains
Source: Thinkstock

9. Washington
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 79.0% (24th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 40.9% (15th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 5.6% (19th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 33.3% (4th highest)

Female representation in positions of political power can be instrumental in creating policy favorable to gender equality. In Washington, 41.7% of the state’s congressional delegation is female. While that seems low, it is actually the fourth highest percentage among states. Less than 20% of Congress is female.

The state is also one of just seven to have had more than one female governor in its history.

Boston, Massachusetts
Source: Thinkstock

10. Massachusetts
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 83.1% (13th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 43.9% (3rd highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 7% (21st lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 25.5% (21st highest)

In Massachusetts, the typical woman working full time earns $51,343 a year, more than in any other state in the country. Despite the relatively high earnings, women in the Bay State earn an average of 83 cents for every dollar men make.

Legislation in Massachusetts protecting working women is also lagging behind some other states. Under the Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993, workers across the country are allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work for a number of reasons, including childbirth and caring for an ill child. Massachusetts has expanded on that law for public sector workers but has not taken significant action to increase protections for private sector workers.

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