Best Place for Working Moms? Head to the ‘Green Mountain State’

Vermont at top, Louisiana at bottom in WalletHub’s annual report

By Dana Wilkie May 12, 2015
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Source: WalletHub
Above, states colored dark blue scored well on WalletHub’s ranking of states where working moms find good salaries, work and childcare. Lighter blue states rank lower. Hover over each state to see its ranking.
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When it comes to women’s salaries, employment rates, parental leave policies, and the quality and affordability of child care and pediatricians, Vermont is the friendliest place in the Union for working mothers, according to a new study.

The least friendly? That would be Louisiana.

The rankings come from the findings in a May 4, 2015, report from personal finance website WalletHub titled Best & Worst States for Working Moms.

Vermont was ranked No. 1, followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and then Massachusetts.
Louisiana was ranked at the bottom. Second from the last was South Carolina, with Mississippi, Alabama and Nevada taking spots No. 49, 48 and 47, respectively.

WalletHub, which provides its members with online financial tools, analyzed demographic data and research covering 12 metrics—from the cost and quality of day care to gender pay gaps to parental leave policies—in each of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. The company ranked states based on the cumulative scores each received on the 12 metrics.

For instance, WalletHub measured the quality of child care in a state by looking at day care rankings by Child Care Aware of America, day care costs adjusted for median salary, access to pediatric services and U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of public high schools.

WalletHub measured the quality of professional opportunities by considering the average gender pay gap in the state and the ratio of male to female executives.

Economic opportunities were calculated using female unemployment rates in each state and the median salary for women, adjusted for the cost of living.

Work/life balance rankings were calculated by looking at parental leave policies, the length of the average woman’s workday and the average work commute.

The study also ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia by separate metrics.

The best day care systems were found in New York. The worst are in Idaho. The lowest child care costs were in Tennessee, the highest in Washington, D.C.

The lowest gender pay gap was in Vermont, the highest in Wyoming. The highest female-to-male executive ratio was in Alabama, the lowest in Utah.

“Most employers don’t believe they are biased. Training in implicit bias is necessary…it helps us to understand our… hidden biases that shape our decisions every day,” said Maureen Perry-Jenkins, director of the Center for Research on Families at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who provided written remarks in the study.  

The state with the best work-life balance was Oregon. The one with the worst was Georgia.

“Generally, jobs that promote flexibility in work hours [and] work location make work-life balance easier for both men and women and promote more positive job attitudes,” wrote Stefanie K. Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, in the report.

The political orientation of a state—whether its citizens tend to vote for Democrats, and hence is nicknamed a “blue state,” or for Republicans, and so is considered a “red state”—appears to affect how woman-friendly each is, said Diana Popa, communications manager at WalletHub.

“We found that blue states are friendlier toward working moms than red states,” Popa said, noting that the average ranking of a Democratic-leaning state was 18, and the average for a Republican-leaning state was 34. “We did not look into specific state legislature, as that is difficult to quantify.”

Courtney G. Joslin, law professor at the University of California at Davis, wrote in the report that federal laws that help parents balance their jobs and their home lives still need improving. For instance, she wrote, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may allow employees time off from jobs to care for relatives, but the leave is unpaid, doesn’t cover part-time workers and doesn’t apply to smaller employers.

“It’s estimated that because of these limitations, about 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is not covered by the FMLA,” she wrote, adding that many covered workers don’t take the leave, or take very little of it, because “they simply cannot afford to take unpaid leave.”

Moreover, she wrote, “a person is not entitled to leave under the FMLA to attend a child's routine doctor's appointment, or to care for a child who has the common cold. But, of course, someone needs to take care of these things.”

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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