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Study Shows State Sixth Overall In Gender Equality
seal CA

With Women’s Equality Day around the corner and the U.S. ranking as only the 43rd best country for gender equality, the personal-finance website WalletHub this week released its report on 2023’s Best and Worst States for Women's Equality, as well as expert commentary.

In order to determine where women receive the most equal treatment in American society, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 17 key metrics. The data set ranges from the gap between female and male executives to the disparity in unemployment rates for women and men.

In overall rank, California came in sixth; leading the way were Hawaii at number one, followed by Alaska, Maine, Delaware and Vermont as the top five. Ranked in the bottom five were Missouri at number 46, Georgia, Idaho, Texas and Utah, at number 50.


Women’s Equality in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

6th – Earnings Gap

28th – Executive Positions Gap

7th – Work Hours Gap

12th – Minimum-Wage Workers Gap

1st – Unemployment Rate Gap

16th – Entrepreneurship Rate Gap

6th – Political Representation Gap

For the full report, visit:


Expert Commentary

The U.S. is currently ranked 63rd globally when it comes to the gender gap in political empowerment. Are there strategies the U.S. can learn from other countries to help close this gap?

“In the U.S., there is still a lack of understanding of the broad and important benefits society experiences when men and women with more equality serve in elected political positions. Many believe it is only an equity issue when the diversity case is incredibly strong. There is still a gender gap in nearly all measures (pay, health, representation, domestic violence), which, in part, continues to not be addressed because there are not more women in political roles. There is a lack of understanding about why it matters. In addition, there is still significant gender-conscious and unconscious bias that men’s and women’s roles should be different. There is also a strong double bind for women in politics. The ‘political’ role is still viewed as a masculine one, as it is associated with assertiveness and being driven, strong, direct, and loud. Women who embody this behavior break societal norms because being a woman is strongly associated with listening, collaborating, kindness, selflessness, and service. So, if women are seen as ‘fit’ for the political domain, they are naturally breaking social norms. It is a double-bind.”

Susan R. Madsen – Professor, Utah State University


“One major way that many countries have closed this gap is by instituting gender quotas in political representation. A requirement that some percentage of seats be reserved for those who identify as women is unlikely to be considered in the U.S. and is generally thought to be unconstitutional anyway. However, there are other ways (in the spirit of quotas) that policymakers can make sure underrepresented groups have their voices heard. This can include formalizing gendered representation in political institutions where decisions are made. From congressional committees to local library boards, institutional rules that require diverse gender representation can help assure that the lived experiences of all Americans are represented where political decisions are made. These are also structures that should be considered by bureaucratic units and extra-governmental entities like political parties and the media. Where possible, participation by a diverse set of Americans could be further encouraged by breaking down barriers to participation by compensating for service, providing childcare, making meetings accessible, etc.”

Jennie Sweet-Cushman, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Chatham University


What policies would prove effective at increasing female representation in senior management roles in the Fortune 500 and other large, multinational corporations?

“So many! Women are underrepresented in senior management roles in Fortune 500 and other large, multinational corporations for many reasons, including negative stereotypes about women (they are less smart, not good at math, not tough enough, too family-oriented), a lack of mentoring (which is related to stereotypes), a lack of support for parental leave and child care, as well as behaviors that actively seek to preserve male power and dominance in these spaces, including sexual harassment. What kinds of policies would be effective? Start with the low-hanging fruit: in order to narrow the gender wage gap and increase women’s participation in all levels of the labor market, the U.S. must invest in a minimum level of paid parental leave (I would hope for more than minimal, but let’s start there) and universal, high-quality child care and pre-K. Period. Second, the culture of misogyny and outright sexual harassment must be addressed … Finally, as some other countries have done, corporations could be rewarded for closing the gender gap and penalized for not doing so.”

Angela J. Hattery – Professor; Co-Director, Center for the Study & Prevention of Gender-Based Violence, University of Delaware


“A variety of policies and practices in corporate America have been shown to be linked to better representation of women in top leadership roles. The pipeline preparation is critical in terms of attracting women all along the entry-to-the-C-suite path. Policies include paid family leave, back-to-work maternity support, unpaid family leave, adoption and fertility benefits, childcare support, flexible hours and locations, part-time professional roles, part-time work with benefits, and job sharing. Companies that provide specific advancement-focused programs targeted at women have been shown to be effective (if designed well). These include thoughtful and intentional efforts around increasing gender diversity at mid- to senior-level levels, strategies to recruit women, mentoring and sponsorship programs for women, women’s professional development programing, ensuring there are at least 30–40 percent women on corporate boards, women’s employee resource groups, women’s leadership development programs, and returnships. In addition, pay equity and tuition reimbursement are important initiatives that forward-thinking companies are offering that are linked to better representation in terms of gender (and race) in the top positions within Fortune 500 companies and beyond.”

Susan R. Madsen – Professor, Utah State University


How does inflation affect the gender pay gap?

“Quite simply, it makes it worse in the sense that it exacerbates the impact of the gender pay gap. Women, already making less than men, will be significantly more impacted by inflation; it will make paying rent, child care, and putting food on the table more impossible than it already is. Women may find themselves working longer hours and taking on second and third jobs just to afford a basic, minimal standard of living.”

Angela J. Hattery – Professor; Co-Director, Center for the Study & Prevention of Gender-Based Violence, University of Delaware