Special Report

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

San Antonio, Texas
Source: Thinkstock

36. Texas
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 78.9% (25th highest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 37.9% (11th lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 27.6% (9th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 19.9% (14th lowest)

Female representation in political office can be instrumental in advancing issues of gender equality. In Texas, however, only 7.9% of the state’s congressional representation is female, and less than one in four members of the state legislature are women.

On the other hand, Texas is one of just seven states to have had more than one female governor in its history. Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, elected in November 1924, was the first in the state, and one of the first female governors in the nation.

Kansas City Skyline, Missouri
Source: Thinkstock

37. Missouri
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 77.9% (18th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 40.9% (15th highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 2.8% (15th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 24.9% (25th highest)

Over the nearly two centuries Missouri has been a state, it has never once elected a female governor. While many state governments have been headed exclusively by men, Missouri lags behind a majority of them in a number of measures related to gender equality.

In addition to having some of the weakest worker protections regarding pregnancy and family leave in the country, both the gender wage gap and the share of women in poverty in Missouri are higher than the national figures.

Oklahoma City Sunrise
Source: Thinkstock

38. Oklahoma
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 73.2% (7th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 35.3% (6th lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 37.4% (4th highest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 13.4% (3rd lowest)

In 2011, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin became the first woman to hold the state’s highest office. Fallin is one of just six sitting female governors.

On the whole, however, female representation in government in Oklahoma is lacking. Only 13.4% of state legislators are women, the third-lowest share in the country. Oklahoma is one of just 13 states with no female representatives in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives.

Cleveland, Ohio, Cuyahoga County
Source: Thinkstock

39. Ohio
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 74.7% (10th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 38.3% (13th lowest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 3.5% (16th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 25.0% (22nd highest)

With a relatively large population, there is greater opportunity in Ohio for gender diversity among congressional delegates. Still only three of the state’s 18 congressional representatives are women.

The gender pay gap in Ohio is worse than it is nationwide, and public sector workers are not immune. According to a 2014 investigation published by the Associated Press, women in Governor (and former Republican presidential candidate) John Kasich’s administration earn nearly $10 an hour less than their male counterparts.

Richmond Skyline, Virginia
Source: Thinkstock

40. Virginia
> Female earnings as pct. of male: 77.8% (17th lowest)
> Pct. mgmt. jobs held by women: 40.5% (21st highest)
> Pct. 3-4 yr. olds enrolled in state pre-K: 8.9% (24th lowest)
> Pct. legislative seats held by women: 17.1% (9th lowest)

In Virginia, 36.9% of women have a bachelor’s degree, more than in all but six other states. But despite their higher educational attainment, women in the Old Dominion State experience some of the worst gender inequality in the country.

Women comprise only 7.7% of the state’s congressional delegation and 17.1% of the state legislature, each among the lowest shares of any state. Women also comprise 56.5% of all state residents living below the poverty line, slightly more than is typical.

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