Massachusetts has been designated the best US state for women in terms of gender equality in a recent report
Massachusetts is the best state to be a woman (Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)
The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) has released an index of American women’s rights and opportunities across all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.
The US Women, Peace, and Security Index captures how women's rights and opportunities range based on their race.
The report also examines how women's legal protections vary by state and reveals enormous deficits in the states that are lagging behind.
The research, a first of its kind, has revealed that there are vast differences across the United States, with Massachusetts – at the top of the ranking – scoring almost four times better than Louisiana at the bottom.
The 12 best- and worst-performing states (Image: GIWPS)
The index assesses women’s inclusion in society, sense of security, access to justice and legal protections, and exposure to discrimination – key indicators of how women are faring in different communities and cultures across the country.
The results and data were also presented in a detailed visualization by National Geographic.
There are clear patterns in regional performance.
For example, all six states in the Northeast region are among the 10 best performing states nationally, while all five of the worst-performing states are in the Southeast region.
Yet location is not a sole determinant as there are also major differences within regions.
Women Face Serious Inequalities and Injustices in America
Gender inequalities are further intensified by racial injustice. Racial gaps are at their most disparate for women’s college completion, maternal mortality, and state legislative representation.
In New Jersey, maternal mortality rates for black women are almost quadruple those for white women and are worse than rates in Iraq and Nicaragua.
“The state in which a woman lives determines, among other things, her ability to file a workplace sexual harassment claim, her level of protection from an abusive partner, and whether she can take paid time off for caregiving,” – Dr. Jeni Klugman, Managing Director of GIWPS
On a positive note, approximately half of the country is aware of gender inequities in the US.
Additionally, a solid majority of Americans support gender equality and see equal pay and reproductive healthcare as key components.
There was also overwhelming support for affordable child care in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.
"The good old boy system: it is real and it is still active in Louisiana… The decisions that are being made are not in our interest. They are not taking our needs into account.” – Dianna Payton, CEO of YWCA Greater Baton Rouge
However, support levels for actions to promote gender equality were much lower among Republicans and white men.
Close to half of all American adults (46%) do not think the US is a global leader in gender equality – compared to 90% of Republican men.
The report also notes:
- In 7 states, fewer than 20% of state legislators are women.
- In 17 States, fewer than half of women feel safe walking alone at night within a mile of their neighborhood.
- In 37 States, domestic abusers subject to protective orders are not required to relinquish firearms.
- 2 in 3 adults believe that the country would be better off with more women in political office.
- 4 in 5 adults believe that it is important for elected officials to work on issues affecting gender equality.
- 83% of adults believe that, in light of the Covid-19 crisis, it is just as or even more important that women be paid the same as men for equal work.
- In 17 states, including Arizona, Arkansas, and Idaho, at least one in three men believe that it is better for men to be the breadwinner while women tend to the home, revealing adverse norms that obstruct women’s economic opportunities.
- In 44 states, there is no legislated minimum wage above the low-income threshold.
The report builds on a global WPS Index, launched in 2017 and updated in 2019 and 2020, that assesses women’s well-being across 167 countries around the world. The United States ranks 19th globally on women’s wellbeing.
What is the US Women, Peace, and Security Index?
The index is structured around three basic dimensions:
- Inclusion: economic, social, political
- Justice: formal laws and informal discrimination
- Security: at the individual and community levels;
The three basic dimensions can be further broken down into 12 indicators.
The index uses three dimensions and 12 indicators (Image: GIWPS)
- College degree
- State legislature
- Working poor
- Maternal mortality
- Discriminatory norms
- Legal protection
- Reproductive healthcare access
- Community safety
- Healthcare aordability
- Gun deaths
- Intimate partner violence
These dimensions and indicators are used to provide a standardized, quantitative, and transparent measure or "Index score" for ranking all 50 US states along with the District of Columbia.
Possible index scores range from a low of 0 (dark red) to a high of 1 (dark green). (Image: GIWPS)
The Best and Worst States to Be a Woman in 2021
Below is the complete ranking of all 50 US states along with the District of Columbia, ranked from best to worst.
3. District of Columbia
5. Rhode Island
6. New Hampshire
8. New York
11. New Jersey
20. North Dakota
29. South Dakota
33. North Carolina
40. New Mexico
44. South Carolina
46. West Virginia