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Guest opinion: Best and worst states for women in 2024 – We aren’t at the bottom at least!

By Susan Madsen - | Mar 1, 2024

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Susan Madsen

In the state of Utah, we typically talk about WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality,” which we have continuously ranked dead last (50th of 50) for nine years running. Although some people dismiss and excuse these rankings away, our own in-depth research in 2021 has confirmed the results. However, I am pleased to say that we do rank much better on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst State for Women” (when we remove the “equality” factor).

In 2023, we ranked 37th of 50 states plus the District of Columbia and now, in 2024, we are ranked at 35th. This is not awesome but at least in the middle of the pack. Of 100 points, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine, Maryland and New York all have over 70 points and are at the top, while Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Arkansas are ranked as the worst states — all below 40 points. Utah has 50.40 points.

For this ranking, WalletHub categorizes their findings into two main categories — women’s economic and social well-being, and women’s health care and safety — with a total of 25 key indicators that are each weighted differently. They pull their data from a variety of sources that range from the U.S. Census Bureau to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Education Statistics and the Violence Policy Center. Although not published in their report, I was able to obtain more detailed data directly from WalletHub. Let me share what I found.

Women’s economic and social well-being

First, Utah currently ranks 36th (up from 43rd in 2023) for the “Women’s Economic & Social Well-Being” category. I have included the state rankings for each indicator within this category below (1 = best state and 51 = worst state).

  1. Median earnings for female workers: 48
  2. Unemployment rate for women: 1
  3. Job security for women: 3
  4. Share of women living in poverty: 2
  5. Unaffordability of doctor’s visit: 38
  6. Share of women-owned businesses: 35
  7. “Economic clout” of women-owned firms rank: 6
  8. High school graduation rate for women: 32
  9. Friendliness toward working moms: 19
  10. Friendliness toward women’s equality: 50
  11. Share of women who voted in the 2020 presidential election: 33

Women’s health care and safety

Secondly, Utah ranks 28th (from 25th in 2023) in “Women’s Health Care & Safety,” which comes from the sum of the following indicators, including our rankings (1 = best state and 51 = worst state):

  1. Abortion policies and access: 31
  2. Quality of women’s hospitals: 47
  3. Share of women ages 18-44 who reported having one or more people they think of as their personal doctor or health care provider: 40
  4. Female uninsured rate: 34
  5. Share of women with good or better health: 10
  6. Women’s preventive health care: 46
  7. Share of physically active women: 3
  8. Share of women who are obese: 10
  9. Baby-friendliness: 8
  10. Depression rate for women: 50
  11. Suicide rate for women: 39
  12. Women’s life expectancy at birth: 17
  13. Female homicide rate: 9
  14. Prevalence of rape victimization among women: 46

Utah is doing well in some areas, with low unemployment rates, fewer women living in poverty than most states, lower homicide rates, higher economic clout of women-owned firms, more physically active women and more baby-friendliness indicators. However, the ones I continue to be particularly concerned about include Utah’s prevalence of rape victimization among women, the gender pay gap, friendliness toward women’s equality, women’s preventive health care, depression rate for women and suicide rate. I also believe we should be doing much better at voting, too. There is still much more work to be done.

These rankings only give us certain pieces of the puzzle in helping us better understand the status of women in Utah. And it can be easy to be dismissive of reports like this that don’t tell the whole story. But the more data and information we have allows us to be more strategic in finding ways to ensure that all Utahns can better thrive. To do this, a key effort linking together all partners, affiliates and individuals interested in improving Utah is A Bolder Way Forward. We welcome all Utahns into this work. The research is clear: We can help more families, workplaces and society at large when we improve women’s health care and safety, along with women’s economic and social well-being. Helping women helps Utah.

Susan R. Madsen is the Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.


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