Where are the best places to work for women when it comes to the pay gap, maternity leave, child care, and more?
Okay, we already know that, in general, the workplace totally sucks for moms in the United States. First of all, we have the huge gender wage gap that means we’re making significantly less money than men. Secondly, there’s the matter of the extremely crappy national child care situation, not to even begin to mention our terrible parental leave policies.
But are some states doing better than others? Yes, they are.
Over at WalletHub, the site put together a list of the best and worst states for working moms to work, based on 16 different metrics. The results show that while you can get along pretty well as a career parent in New England, a lot of things are stacked against you in much of the deep South.
The best places to work are definitely blue states: Massachusetts comes in first, followed by Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and Washington, DC.
And the worst states are red ones, four out of five of which are in the South: Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Idaho, and Mississippi.
Overall, the average rank of blue states was 17.19, which the average rank of red states was 32.17.
How did they come up with the list? The broke their research into three main sections: child care, professional opportunities, and work-life balance.
The child care section was further broken down into six different metrics: the quality of day care options, the cost of day care, the number of childcare providers, the number of accredited childcare choices, the number of pediatricians, and the quality of school systems.
The professional opportunities section was also broken down into smaller metrics: the size of the gender pay gap, the ratio of female executives to male executives, the median salary for women, the percentage of working women with economic security, the percentage of families living in poverty, and the unemployment rate for women.
The work-life balance section was broken down into three smaller parts: the parental leave policies, the average number of hours worked per week by women, and a woman’s average commute time.
A few other highlights from the findings?
Even though the South did poorly overall, they also have the lowest costs for childcare – possibly because they have lower costs of living overall, and possibly because of the quality level of the care.
The gender gap is the smallest in (in order): New Mexico, Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and Rhode Island.
The most female executives (in comparison to male executives) can be found in (in order): DC, South Dakota, Maine, Vermont, and Montana.
While all of this information is helpful, it’s also helpful to look at the data and see how we can help states lower on the list do better, and how to help states higher on the list get even closer to total equality in the workplace. WalletHub showed its data to a panel of experts, who shared their best ideas for a better future for working moms – many of whom struggle daily with issues related to work-life balance, child care, and just getting by with both their duties as employee and mom.
“Given that we still lack federal paid family leave in the United States and it is unlikely to materialize in at least the short term, firms should provide paid leave so all workers – not just professionals – have the financial ability to take time off after the birth of a child,” said Dr. Ann Winkler, the Economics Department Chair at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. “Such policies benefit firms as well as parents by improving worker morale and attachment to the firm”
At Purdue University, Sociology professor Jeremy Renolds agrees that paid paternal leave is a key policy we need on a federal level. He adds that we also need more flexible work schedules for all workers, no matter who they are.
“A number of countries and the states of Vermont and New Hampshire have introduced ‘right-to-request’ legislation that helps workers get the work schedules they need,” he said. “The details of the legislation vary. However, in most cases, the legislation prohibits employers from punishing workers who request a change in their work schedule and it requires employers who deny such requests to justify their decision in writing. Such legislation could help companies and workers find ways to achieve a better work-life fit while protecting workers who dare to reveal that they value their lives outside of work.”
Kerry Wade, Assistant Director – Families and Community Development Unit, West Virginia University Extension Service, believes that when it comes to child care, companies need to step up and help pull more weight.
“Private providers are barely able to sustain themselves financially,” she said. “Centers that are backed by churches or non-profit organizations do better because they have the backing of that organization. If companies would be willing to help support or sponsor providers, there would be dependable care for their employees’ children and the employer would benefit from a more reliable work force.”
What can you do as one working mom, who is in a state that didn’t fare well? First and foremost: vote. Secondly, make a racket at work. And finally, know your rights as a worker and as a parent.