Special Report

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

Waterfront Park Charleston, South Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

26. South Carolina
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 80.9% (19th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 42.3% (10th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 25.8% (10th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 13.5% (4th lowest)

Having a high share of women in positions they have historically been excluded from is a good sign that progress has been made toward gender equality in a state. In South Carolina, 42.3% of those employed in management positions are women, one of the higher shares in the country.

While South Carolina women are more likely to hold positions of power in the workplace, they are grossly underrepresented in politics, outside of current Governor Nikki Haley. The state is one of 13 with no women in Congress.. In addition, just 13.5% of the state legislators are women, the fourth-lowest share of any state.

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Source: Thinkstock

27. Louisiana
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 68.0% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 44.6% (2nd highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 16% (20th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 11.8% (the lowest)

Policies that allow flexibility for time off after childbirth for both women and men can be instrumental in ensuring workplace equality. Louisiana has a number of policies conducive to gender equality in the workplace. State employers are legally required to allow a minimum of six weeks leave during pregnancy, and as much as four months, if there are complications.

Unfortunately, complications after pregnancy are more common in Louisiana than most states. The state’s infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the country.

Las Vegas, Nevada skyline
Source: Thinkstock

28. Nevada
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 83.7% (10th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 41.0% (13th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 1.9% (13th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 33.3% (4th highest)

Nevada has not expanded on any federally mandated protections for private or public sector workers related to family leave or pregnancy accommodations. In addition, at 7.2%, Nevada has the highest female unemployment rate of any state in the country.

Women face more challenges in Nevada than in many other states despite the relatively large share of female state legislators. Of the 63 legislative seats in Nevada state government, one third are held by women, one of the largest percentages in the country.

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Source: Thinkstock

29. Tennessee
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 81.0% (18th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 39.1% (21st lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 10.1% (25th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 17.4% (11th lowest)

A woman has never been elected governor in Tennessee, and a smaller than average share of both the state legislature and the state’s congressional delegation are women. In addition, women in Tennessee are less likely to hold management positions than women nationwide.

Despite the state’s many shortcomings in terms of gender equality, Tennessee lawmakers have expanded on the federal Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993, allowing both private and public sector workers to take more than 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work. Reasons for taking leave include childbirth and caring for an ill child.

Des Moines, Iowa 2
Source: Thinkstock

30. Iowa
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 76.7% (16th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 33.8% (3rd lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 32.8% (5th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 22.7% (21st lowest)

Jobs in management tend be higher paying, and in Iowa, men are are far more likely to have management roles than women. Only one in three management positions in the state are held by women, a smaller share than in all but two other states.

The state does have its place in the historic fight for women’s rights in the U.S., however. Carrie Chapman Catt, a leading figure in the women’s suffrage movement and founder of the League of Women Voters, spent much of her childhood in Iowa and was educated at what is now Iowa State University.

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