50 Best to Worst States for Women: States 11-15

New Jersey

The Lowdown

They might call themselves Real Housewives, but trust us, they don’t represent the average Jersey girl. Women from the Garden State support themselves with one of the country’s highest median salaries: $45,936. And more than one-third of women who graduated college were aiming for more than an “M.R.S.” degree.

The Good News

New Jersey is mom-friendly: The state’s Family Leave Act gives women 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn. The same goes for spouses that care for moms who need help with postpartum recovery. This is on top of the 12 weeks allowed by the federal Family Medical Leave Act. New Jersey women take good care of themselves: they rank in the top 10 on healthy weight and Pap smear rates. And they have one of the lowest female poverty rates of any state: 10.3 percent, compared to 14.5 percent nationwide.

The Bad News

Childcare is expensive -- $11,200 annually for an infant -- and state childcare assistance is hard to come by with nearly 9,000 children on the waiting list. There are currently zero women representing New Jersey in Congress and in 2010, the man in the governor’s seat, Chris Christie, vetoed funding for family planning clinics that provide birth control and health screenings to the 15.6 percent of New Jersey women who are uninsured.

Hear Us Roar

Christine Todd Whitman was the first and only women so far to serve as governor of New Jersey. And the Apgar score, used to quickly determine whether a newborn needs medical attention, was created by New Jersey native Virginia Apgar, M.D., in 1952.

= 7.3

Colorado

The Lowdown

Ladies rule the state legislature, but it’s time you start thinking about higher office.

The Good News

That Rocky Mountain high keeps Colorado women moving more and weighing less than women in all but two other states (only 52 percent are overweight or worse, compared to the national average of 60 percent). A greater percentage of women (41 percent!) fill seats in the state legislature than any other in the country, but Colorado has never sent a woman to the Senate or the governor’s mansion. (There is one female House member: Diana DeGette (D-CO)). And 36 percent of women have a bachelor’s degree, second only to Massachusetts.

The Bad News

Nearly one in five women doesn’t have health insurance, and that has its repercussions: Thirty percent of women over 40 haven’t had a mammogram and one in four women hasn’t had a Pap smear within the last three years.

Hear Us Roar

The first woman pilot for a commercial airline, Emily Howell Warner, hails from Colorado, as did Florence Sabin, the first female member of the National Academy of Sciences and a noted medical researcher.

Score: 7.2

Maine

The Lowdown

When it comes to healthy living, women in Maine are savvier than most. So please explain why they’ve never elected a woman to statewide office?

The Good News

Women in Maine get a high five from pro-choice advocates for laws that assure contraceptives are covered by insurers, pharmacists fill those prescriptions and that women seeking an abortion are protected from blockades and clinic violence. Women here are among the top 10 when it comes to having health insurance. We love that both of Maine’s U.S. Senate seats are held by women, though we’re sad that one of them, Olympia Snowe, is not running for re-election. We hope one of the women who make up 29 percent of the state legislature thinks about running for higher office!

The Bad News

Maine is the only state in the country to never have elected a woman to statewide office. We’ll cut it a little slack, considering there’s only one such office: governor. But still, come on. The same can be said for the paltry percentage of female-owned businesses, 25.6, which puts Maine in the bottom 10 of all states and below the national average of 27.6 percent.

Hear Us Roar

Maine’s first female congresswoman, Margaret Chase Smith, went on to become the first woman in the country to serve in both houses of Congress. She was a U.S. Senator for 24 years (1949-1973) and a congresswoman for nine years through World War II (1940-1949).

= 7.1

Illinois

The Lowdown

When it comes to women-run businesses, Illinois ranks among the best.

The Good News

In Illinois, 31 percent of businesses are women owned, ranking it number five out of all 50 states. An equal percentage of women have four-year college degrees. And girl power extends into the boardroom: two of the 10 female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list work for Illinois companies. Irene Rosenfeld heads up Kraft Foods in Northfield and Patricia Woertz leads Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland. Women hold 31 percent of seats in the state legislature (but Illinois has never elected a female governor).

The Bad News

If you work for the state of Illinois, a law bans your health insurance company from providing abortion coverage. And health care providers who receive state funding cannot counsel or refer women to abortion services. Just 71 percent of women over 40 have had a mammogram and 60 percent of women are overweight or obese. Only 27 percent of women eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and 30 percent of women here don’t exercise at all.

Hear Us Roar

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first woman to go from first lady to U.S. senator and only the third woman to serve as secretary of state, was born in Illinois. So was National Organization for Women Founder Betty Friedan, whose book “The Feminist Mystique” was a rallying cry for the woman’s rights movement.

= 6.5

Alaska

The Lowdown

When it comes to money in the bank, Alaska’s women are doing better than most.

The Good News

Alaska has one of the lowest poverty rates (10.4 percent) and highest median salaries -- $42,376 per year. And when moms need help paying for childcare, odds are they’ll get it. Not only is there no waiting list, a family of three can earn up to $54,000 and still qualify for help.

The Bad News

Alaska’s current U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski, is the only woman the state has ever elected to Congress. The rate of women who don’t have health insurance, 22 percent, is higher than the national average of 19 percent. And many women here aren’t healthy eaters – just 28 percent eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. And 65 percent of Alaskan women are overweight or obese.

Hear Us Roar

Sarah Palin, only the second woman to fill the vice presidential slot on a major party ballot and the subject of the new movie Game Change, is Alaska’s former governor.

= 6.4
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