50 Best to Worst States for Women: States 6-10

Vermont

The Lowdown

Vermont women are health nuts. They take care of themselves by eating well, working out regularly and getting their Pap smears and mammograms.

The Good News

Nearly 36 percent of women eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day – the highest in the nation. So it’s no surprise that nearly half of women here (46 percent) have a healthy weight, besting the national average of 40 percent. And there’s more good news: 92 percent of Vermont women have health insurance. The right to choose is guaranteed by the Vermont Constitution and backed up by laws that provide low-income women with abortion access and guaranteed over-the-counter access to emergency contraception.

The Bad News

While women fill a respectable 38 percent of all seats in the state legislature (the country’s second highest average), Vermont is one of just four states that has never sent a woman to Congress.

Hear Us Roar

Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin, who led Vermont from 1985-1991, is the only female governor in the U.S. to have been elected to serve three terms (elections in Vermont are held every two years).

= 7.8

New York

The Lowdown

Let’s hear it for New York, where women earn more, own more and graduate more than in most other states.

The Good News

It’s great to be an entrepreneur in New York. Thirty percent of business owners in the Empire State are women (compared with 28.7 percent nationwide). Median salaries hover at around $41,570 a year and a third of women have four-year college degrees. New York gets high marks when it comes to reproductive rights, having just made NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Top 10 list. And New York City was the first in the country to fund programs to increase awareness of and access to emergency contraceptives.

The Bad News

Women are poorly represented in the state legislature, holding just 21 percent of the seats (earning New York a ranking of 34 out of all 50 states). The stats for the governor’s mansion are even worse – New York has never elected a woman to the state’s highest office.

Hear Us Roar

New York sent the first African American woman to Congress: Shirley Chisholm. Nydia Velazquez holds the same honor for her Puerto Rican ancestry. New York was also home to the country’s first female vice presidential nominee from a major party, Geraldine Ferraro.

= 7.7

Minnesota

The Lowdown

When it comes to healthy living, Minnesota women trump their Midwestern neighbors.

The Good News

In Minnesota, 46 percent of women are a healthy weight. The U.S. average is 40 percent. Only 10 percent lack health insurance and because of that, an impressive 81 percent of women have had Pap smears in the last three years. An equal percentage of women over 40 have had a mammogram. Twelve percent of women live in poverty, which is lower than the national average of 14.5 percent, and there is female representation in both houses of Congress: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Reps. Betty McCullom (D-MN) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Bachmann was the only woman running in the 2012 Presidential Campaign before she bowed out after the Iowa Republican caucuses in January.

The Bad News

Minnesota has the nation’s third-highest childcare costs: $12,900 per year for an infant. Women own fewer businesses here than the national average: 26.8 vs. 28.7 percent. Choice is limited in Minnesota, where 95 percent of counties have no abortion provider and women are required to wait 24 hours after seeing their doctor before having the procedure done.

Hear Us Roar

U.S. Diplomat and Ambassador Rozanne Ridgway, who was head negotiator at all five Reagan/Gorbachev summits in the lead-up to the end of the Cold War, was born in Minnesota. The state is also home town to two prominent journalists: Gretchen Carlson of FOX and Friends and NPR’s Michele Norris.

= 7.6

Washington

The Lowdown

In Washington, the ladies rule – literally. Women hold both U.S. Senate seats, the Governor’s office and one-third of the state legislature.

The Good News

Washington earns an A+ ranking from NARAL Pro-Choice America for its protection of a woman’s right to choose and contraceptive access. Health insurance must cover birth control as part of its prescription drug plan and pharmacies are required to dispense the medication. Washington women are physically active, ranking third in the nation in exercise rates. With a median salary of $40,246, the women of Washington are among the nation’s top 10 wage earners.

The Bad News

Childcare is expensive ($11,450 annually for an infant) and assistance is hard to come by with nearly 3,500 on the state’s waiting list. Roughly one in four women have not had their routine Pap smears or mammograms, putting Washington’s rates slightly below the national average.

Hear Us Roar

Tacoma, Wash., native Shirley Widnall was the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military when she served as Secretary of the Air Force from 1993-1997.

= 7.5

New Hampshire

The Lowdown

Women here do well economically but might want to keep close tabs on their state legislature.

The Good News

Women in New Hampshire are less likely than other American women to live in poverty. Only 9.2 percent of women meet that criteria compared with 22 percent in the state with the highest rate of female poverty. (We’ll reveal that state later in this series.) It looks like going to college makes women here more employable. One-third of women have a four-year degree, compared to 27.9 percent nationwide. And women earn a median salary of $40,185. New Hampshire women take care of themselves too, scheduling their preventive screenings as recommended, as well as their workouts. And they refer to both of their U.S. Senators as “Ms.”

The Bad News

New Hampshire is doing well for women now, but we’re concerned by what the future could hold. The state legislature is chipping away at money for programs women rely on. Planned Parenthood funding is at risk, which would impact contraceptive and health screening access for women, and a law that would allow employers to use religion as a reason for not covering contraceptives passed the state house in early March. And Republican lawmakers last year introduced a bill that would require police to obtain a warrant before arresting someone for domestic violence. After strong opposition from victims’ rights groups, that bill died on the floor. But the fact that it made it to the floor at all is disrespectful to women, especially those who have lived with abuse.

Hear Us Roar

New Hampshire has two female senators: Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Shaheen also served as governor from 1997-2003.

= 7.4 Come back tomorrow to see the next five states on our list of Best to Worst States for Women!
 
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