Massachusetts Is the Best State to Be a Woman

Peter Watson

Massachusetts has been designated the best US state for women in terms of gender equality in a recent report

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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.

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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.

Regional Differences

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.

As such, even though Colorado ranks 14th overall, its neighbors, Utah and Wyoming, rank 36th and 43rd.

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.

The results were from a nationally representative survey commissioned for the report in August 2020 by YouGov and PerryUndem.

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.

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The index uses three dimensions and 12 indicators (Image: GIWPS)

Inclusion

  • College degree
  • State legislature
  • Working poor
  • Employment

Justice

  • Maternal mortality
  • Discriminatory norms
  • Legal protection
  • Reproductive healthcare access

Security

  • 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.

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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.

1. Massachusetts

2. Connecticut

3. District of Columbia

4. Vermont

5. Rhode Island

6. New Hampshire

7. Maryland

8. New York

9. Maine

10. Hawaii

11. New Jersey

12. Minnesota

13. Illinois

14. Colorado

15. California

16. Wisconsin

17. Pennsylvania

18. Oregon

19. Nebraska

20. North Dakota

21. Michigan

22. Delaware

23. Iowa

24. Washington

25. Ohio

26. Kansas

27. Virginia

28. Alaska

29. South Dakota

30. Florida

31. Arizona

32. Montana

33. North Carolina

34. Indiana

35. Nevada

36. Utah

37. Georgia

38. Missouri

39. Idaho

40. New Mexico

41. Texas

42. Oklahoma

43. Wyoming

44. South Carolina

45. Tennessee

46. West Virginia

47. Kentucky

48. Alabama

49. Arkansas

50. Mississippi

51. Louisiana

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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