50 Best to Worst States for Women: The Top 5

Connecticut

The Lowdown

A select group of states earned high marks for being a place where women thrive but it was Connecticut that rose to the top of our list!  Women here earn more, know more and take better care of themselves than their sisters in any other state.

The Good News

There’s so much! Ninety percent of women have health insurance, which is probably why Connecticut women are more likely to have regular Pap smears and mammograms. (Yay healthy girl parts!) They’re also fit and trim – nearly half have a healthy weight, likely due to their love of exercise, fruits and vegetables and quality time at Ocean Beach in the summer. Financially, they’re among the nation’s top female earners. The median salary is $46,000. This is easy to accomplish when there are so many smarty pants in the state’s ranks. More than a third (35 percent) of women have a four-year college degree, well above national average of 28 percent.

The Bad News

Working moms shell out a huge chunk of their paychecks for childcare. Connecticut ranks among the most expensive states, averaging $12,650 a year for infant care. And in the state’s seven-member congressional delegation, only one representative goes by Ms. Thank you, Rosa L. DeLauro D-CT.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, called Connecticut home, as did advocate for the disabled Helen Keller. Lillian Vernon, the first woman to take a company public on the New York Stock Exchange, can be found here too. Ursula Burns, CEO of Norwalk-based Xerox, is one of only 10 women leading a Fortune 500 company. And politically, in 1975 Ella T. Grasso became the first woman in the U.S. to be elected governor in her own right.

= 8.9

Hawaii

The Lowdown

Beaches, sunsets and girl power?! We are so packing our bags.

The Good News

If you live in Hawaii, there’s a good chance your boss answers to “Ms.”: Nearly a third of all businesses owners are women (the national average is 27.6 percent). And women rule the House. The state’s two congressional seats are held by Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). The state legislature is more than one-third female – earning it fourth place out of all 50 state legislatures when it comes to female representation. Hawaiian women also trounce the national average on health insurance rates (only 9 percent are uninsured vs. 19 percent nationwide) and healthy weight (48 percent vs. 40 percent).

The Bad News

Childcare is expensive: $12,600 per year for an infant. And despite electing women to the House, Hawaii has never had a female U.S. senator. There’s room for improvement when it comes to healthy eating, too. Only 27 percent of women get their recommended five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Considering that they live in a tropical paradise, we think they could do better.

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In 1965, Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink became the first woman of color and Asian American ever elected to Congress.

Score: 8.2

Maryland

The Lowdown

Maryland… where boss ladies rule

The Good News

Ladies here are high earners and business owners. One-third of all businesses in Maryland are owned by a women, the country’s highest percentage, and 36 percent of women have college degrees. And look at those paychecks: Women bring home an average median salary of $47,175 per year, the nation’s highest salary and nearly $20,000 more than the earnings of women in the worst-ranked state (we’ll keep you guessing on which one that is). Maryland also has one of the lowest poverty rates among women (10.1 percent, 30 percent lower than the national average of 14.5 percent.)

The Bad News

All those long hours at work might take a toll on women’s health. More than 60 percent of women are overweight or obese and more than one in four don’t exercise. Only one woman has served in the Senate (Barbara Ann Mikulski, D-MD) and the state has never elected a female governor. And if you’re a mom, childcare will cost you a lot -- $12,400 annually for an infant.

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Sen. Mikulski is the first female Democrat to be elected to both houses of Congress. Maryland is also birthplace of Harriett Ross Tubman, who was born a slave and famously went on to establish the Underground Railroad that brought hundreds of African Americans to freedom.

= 8.1

Massachusetts

The Lowdown

Massachusetts is the only state that requires its residents to have health insurance coverage. So thanks to universal health care, Massachusetts women don’t have to wonder if they can afford to see a doctor.

The Good News

Nearly 96 percent of women in Massachusetts have health insurance. And if you have insurance, it’s easier to schedule that regular mammogram and Pap smear. Massachusetts leads the nation in both categories, with almost 85 percent of women getting screened regularly. Massachusetts women also lead the country in college graduation rates, with 39 percent having a four-year degree. They’re among the nation’s top earners as well – with a median salary of $46,213 per year.

The Bad News

For such a progressive state, Massachusetts has done a horrible job on the political front. There has never been a female U.S. senator and in our country’s 200-plus year history, Massachusetts has only sent four women to the House of Representatives. Currently only one of the state’s 13 congressional seats is held by a woman: Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA). We can’t help but wonder: Would childcare be cheaper if more women were elected to Congress? Massachusetts has the highest rate in the country -- $16,500 per year for an infant. Good luck to anyone who needs help paying those rates. There are nearly 20,000 children on the waiting list for childcare assistance.

Hear Us Roar

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross; suffragette and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, all called Massachusetts home.

= 8.0

California

The Lowdown

From reproductive rights to breastfeeding support to paid parental leave, there are lots of state laws written just for women.

The Good News

California earned an A+ ranking – the nation’s highest – from NARAL Pro-Choice America for its efforts to ensure a woman’s access to contraceptives and abortion services. By law, insurers are required to include contraceptives in their prescription coverage policies. Victims of sexual assault must be offered emergency contraceptives in the emergency room (34 states have no such requirement) and the right to choose is written into the California constitution. On the political front, California is one of only four states where women hold both U.S. Senate seats. It has the country’s most comprehensive breastfeeding laws and an impressive list of parental leave benefits, including up to six weeks paid – yes, paid – leave to care for a newborn or ill family member.

The Bad News

At 22.4 percent, California’s rate of women without health insurance tops the nation’s average of 19 percent. There’s little help for the state’s high childcare costs ($11,300 for an infant for a year), considering there are 187,000 children on the waiting list for state assistance.

Hear Us Roar

The nation’s first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, represents California. And two aviation trailblazers hail from the Golden State: Pilot Amelia Earhart and Astronaut Sally Ride.

= 7.9


WATCH: Top 5 Best States for Women - Is Yours On the List?

 


Cynthia Ramnarace is an independent journalist in New York City who writes frequently on topics related to women, families and aging. Follow her on Twitter @cramnarace.

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