Contact: Erin Weber | | (646) 719-7021

A new study released today from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that prior to the “she-cession” there were more women in the labor force than ever before, the gender wage gap narrowed, and women continued to enter managerial and professional occupations at growing rates. Part of the Status of Women in the States project, the new brief presents an Employment and Earnings Index that ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four indicators: (1) women’s earnings, (2) the gender wage gap, (3) women’s participation in the labor force, and (4) women’s representation in managerial and professional occupations.

The District of Columbia held on to the top overall ranking on the Index, maintaining its A grade from 2018. The District of Columbia ranks first (#1) in three of the four Employment and Earnings indicators: women’s earnings, the percent of women in the labor force, and the percent of all employed women in managerial and professional occupations. Maryland and Massachusetts rank second and third overall, maintaining B+ grades.

West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Wyoming rank at the bottom of the Index. Each of these states earned an F grade. In the 2018 Index, Mississippi and West Virginia also earned F grades, while Alabama’s grade fell from a D- to an F and Wyoming’s grade fell from a C+ to an F.

“As the research demonstrates, in many states across the country, we have a lot of work to do to accelerate women’s equality and close critical gaps on issues like pay equity,” said C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of IWPR. “Through sound policies and legislation, we can level the playing field and ensure that regardless of zip code or resident state, full economic security and equity for women is within reach.”

IWPR researcher Elyse Shaw added, “These data show that before COVID-19, we were beginning to see some real progress, which may now be reversed by the pandemic.”

This policy brief updates the Employment and Earnings Index of the Status of Women in the States, presenting data on the economic standing of women across the United States in 2019. Shaw said that next year’s Index will capture the beginnings of the pandemic-fueled “she-cession.”

The brief, authored by IWPR’s Elyse Shaw and Halie Mariano, concludes with state- and national-level policy recommendations aimed at improving women’s economic progress. These include enacting equal pay legislation, providing affordable universal child care, and raising the minimum wage.