Vermont is the best state for basic gender equality and Maryland for female leadership, according to a Bloomberg analysis of pay and power nationwide. Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were among the worst for American women.

The annual Bloomberg analysis has measured factors such as labor-force participation, education, political representation, health care and corporate leadership since 2016. Even with gains, only a handful of states scored better than 80 points on the 0 to 100 scale, the data showed. Democrat-controlled states were best for women, and Republican states were the worst.

“Looking at states that are doing well across the board, women are doing better,” said Nicole Mason, CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “They have higher earnings, there are more women represented in the state legislature, and there are more women in positions of power.”

The latest index was released ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.

At the recent rate of gains, however, gender parity would take many more decades. The institute released data on Thursday estimating that at current rates of improvement, women won’t gain parity in Congress until 2108. Women, who make up about half the workforce and half the population, hold about a quarter of management jobs and only about 5% of CEO jobs. The pay gap has been steady for more than a decade, with women earning about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.

“‘Glacial’ is the right word to use when we think about women’s progress in the U.S,” Mason said.


In aggregate, many factors measured in the survey are improving. Only about 14% of women lived in poverty in the U.S. in the 2020 index compared with 17% in 2016. Women held 29% of state legislature seat in 2019, down from 24% in 2015. A third of women 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree versus 30% in the 2016 ranking.

Vermont, the home state of Sen. Bernie Sanders who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a bright spot for most of those measures.

The state ranked No. 1 for the fourth straight year in the basic equality measure comprising gender pay ratio, labor-force participation and college-degree attainment by women, as well as share of women in poverty and lacking health coverage.

More than 80% of female Vermonters — among those ages 20-64 — are working and typically earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts. Only 3% are without health coverage, among three best states for coverage. In the U.S. overall, 8% of women lack health care, the data showed.

The states with the biggest improvement in their rankings during the last five years were New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. South Dakota slipped 11 spots in that time frame, the biggest decline.

In Massachusetts, only 2% of women still lacked health insurance, compared with 17% in Texas, the state with the least amount of coverage for women. New Hampshire, with 8.4% of women in poverty, was the best by that measure. Missouri, Louisiana and New Mexico trailed the nation with at least one in five women in poverty.


Maryland led the U.S. for the fifth straight year for female leadership, factoring in business ownership, graduate-degree attainment by women, share of highly-compensated females, and percentage of state legislative bodies and board rooms of sizable public firms represented by women.

With poorest and least educated Americans the least able to move, the reality of where you are born can have a dramatic effect on your opportunities.

Almost 45% of women in Hawaii are business owners, compared with less than 30% in North Dakota. About a third of the total full-time workers earning six-figure compensation are female in Maryland and New York, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 2018 Census data. That contrasts with just 18% women in North and South Dakota, the lowest U.S. rate.

Women in Hawaii improved to 31% from 28% in share of those making six-figures paychecks — the biggest one-year gain.

“There’s not enough public will for us to really think through what’s causing these gaps and these disparities,” Mason said. “In a recent poll, 82% of people surveyed said that they believe in women’s equality and that a woman can be president and women should earn the same as men. There’s a real gap between what people philosophically believe in, at a high level, and what’s actually happening on the ground.”

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