Best & Worst States for Working Moms

by John S Kiernan

Wallet Hub Best Worst States for Working MomsWhile women now comprise roughly half of the American workforce, they make about two-thirds as much as men and have far less upward mobility, as evidenced by the fact that less than 5% of Fortune 500 companies have female chief executives. Even the new crop of high-profile female CEOs seems to be drastically underpaid relative to their peers.

Such obvious inequality has spawned a great deal of debate about gender roles in a shifting socioeconomic environment, not to mention renewed presidential emphasis. “A woman deserves equal pay for equal work,” President Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union address. “She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.”

Workplace inequality is important not only in the spirit of a merit-based economy, but also for deeply ingrained social reasons. Should women have to choose between their career and their family? And, even more importantly, are we prepared to accept the societal consequences of these under-the-gun decisions?
The real question, however, is what we’re doing about this fundamental problem. Progress, it would seem, is taking shape at different rates across the country. Not only do parental leave policies and other legal support systems vary by state, but the quality of infrastructure – from cost-effective day care to public schools – are far from uniform as well.

So, in order to help ease the burden on an inherently underappreciated segment of the population, WalletHub analyzed state and local dynamics across nine metrics in order to identify the Best & Worst States for Working Moms. A complete breakdown of our findings, as well as additional information about the methodology we used to conduct this study, can be found below.

Main Findings


Detailed Breakdown by State

Overall Rank

State Name

Child Care Rank

Professional Opportunities Rank

Work-Life Balance Rank

1 Oregon 15 10 1
2 District of Columbia 11 1 34
3 Vermont 15 13 4
4 Maine 18 12 4
5 New York 10 7 21
6 Delaware 1 10 46
7 Rhode Island 26 3 7
8 California 17 17 11
9 Massachusetts 4 19 15
10 Ohio 4 23 12
11 Minnesota 22 16 8
12 Maryland 3 5 51
13 Arizona 20 5 36
14 New Hampshire 7 21 29
T-15 Tennessee 2 32 31
T-15 New Jersey 8 32 14
17 Connecticut 20 41 3
18 Kentucky 19 28 17
19 Florida 29 4 40
20 Nebraska 37 2 23
21 Montana 40 19 2
22 Illinois 23 34 18
23 South Dakota 37 7 33
24 North Dakota 30 23 19
T-25 Virginia 11 38 42
T-25 New Mexico 34 14 29
T-25 Indiana 13 46 24
28 Utah 13 51 15
T-29 Wisconsin 44 26 6
T-29 Hawaii 49 9 19
31 Arkansas 31 25 36
32 Texas 8 43 49
T-33 Washington 39 40 9
T-33 Oklahoma 26 29 41
35 Alabama 33 18 45
36 Alaska 36 26 26
37 West Virginia 25 30 44
38 Michigan 26 42 28
39 North Carolina 24 35 42
40 Iowa 44 35 10
41 Georgia 6 49 50
42 Pennsylvania 43 22 24
43 Missouri 32 38 38
44 Colorado 42 37 22
45 Kansas 40 45 26
46 Nevada 51 14 47
47 South Carolina 48 31 38
48 Idaho 44 48 13
49 Wyoming 44 44 31
50 Mississippi 35 47 48
51 Louisiana 50 50 35
Wallet Hub Working Mom Report
Wallet Hub Blue States Are More Friendly to Working Moms

Ask The Experts: Improving the Plight of Working Moms

It’s clear that something must be done to increase workplace gender equality and ease the burden on working parents, but there is significant debate about what that “something” should be. For some added insight into the issue, we turned to an eclectic group of experts – from university professors who research gender roles and economics to the authors of some of the most popular career and women’s blogs. You can check out both our panel and their insights below.


Is it becoming easier or harder for women to balance a career & family?

In some ways it's easier, with the rise of 24/7 technology, more access to workplace flexibility and increasing hands-on parenting by men. But 24/7 technology has also made it harder to step away from work, while parenting demands on women have also increased in the past decade.

Jennifer Owens, Working Mother Research Institute

Both actually. There are so many more demands on families these days and moms are generally the ones to do it all. Maintain a professional life, be present for school and extra-curricular activities, volunteer in schools or in the community, and run a healthy, well-functioning home.

The silver lining is that work flexibility is no longer as fringe of an idea as it used to be. More companies are adapting flexible options and recognizing that when a woman feels that her time and talents are valued outside of the traditional 9-5 cubicle model, she will be more productive and loyal.

Sara Sutton Fell,

Women are the breadwinners in unprecedented numbers which means they are more in control than ever before. When women stop focusing on balance and juggling and start focusing on how to manage their own lives better, they can live up to their potential.

Samantha Ettus, “Working Moms Lifestyle” Radio Show

Easier! Employers are improving getting on board with family-friendly policies like flexible work schedules and better maternity/paternity leave. Technology allows us to blur the lines between career and family more seamlessly - including the huge and growing trend of self-employment, entrepreneurship and opportunities to work at home.

Plus, we are that much further along in the feminist revolution -- we are embracing the idea that we can be both successful professionals AND successful wives and mothers -- moving towards abolishing working-mom guilt which can sabotage both spheres.

To this point men are also getting on board more, understanding what it takes to raise a family and taking a more active role at home -- all of which means give women the space to succeed in all parts of our lives.

Emma Johnson,

I think it's becoming harder. Americans are expected to work longer hours than our parents did, and wages have stagnated. Families used to be able to live a middle class life on one income in the 50s and 60s, but we can no longer do that. Most families need two incomes. And yet, society and the workplace have not caught up to this change in our lives, so we're all living in a half-changed world. We're expected to do our jobs as if we don't have children, and then raise our children as if we don't have jobs.

Katrina Alcorn,

I believe it is becoming harder and harder for women to balance work and life. The phrase ‘you can have it all’ has somehow morphed into ‘you should have it all.’ Women have pressure from every direction to be the perfect mother, partner and employee. And, many working mothers feel that they’re coming up short on both the work and home front. Many working mothers feel as if they've failed both their families and their employers.

Amber Rosenberg, Pacific Life Coach

Some things have made life easier for women - technology has certainly allowed women more remote access. Women are starting more and more businesses from home, and the Internet and technology has made that possible. For example, many of the students in my Inbox Empire course are setting up home-based businesses to add income to their family, all while working at home with a flexible schedule.

MaryEllen Tribby,

I believe it is becoming easier for moms to balance career and family because there are so many more options available these days. The one with the most flexibility is to work from home as a freelancer or for a company that allows one to work remotely at least part time. For moms who would like to reduce their hours, there are many more opportunities to freelance or find jobs and projects that can be done 100% from home. We also have more tools to help keep us productive on the go with cell phones, iPads and apps and resources for delegating tasks that we do not have time for. Ultimately each mom has to make the choices that work best for her and her family whether that is working 10 or 40+ hours per week. Finding balance is an ongoing challenge but it can be done.

Lesley Pyle,

It’s becoming easier with the advent of new technology. For example, there are a lot of apps that help people manage their time, and the Internet makes it a lot easier to find help – such as a babysitter – than in the past. But it's also become harder too because I feel like women are taking on more. I feel like the reason why technology has grown tremendously is that women really are in desperate need of it.

Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista

How can state & local governments improve the plight of working moms?

The most basic offering would be to mandate paid sick dates for all employees, including working parents. From there, I would say a mandate for paid family leave is a given.

Jennifer Owens, Working Mother Research Institute

San Francisco's recent Family Friendly Ordinance is a great example of reasonable legislation that is appealing to working mothers. By making it acceptable to request flexible work options, and requiring a company to take it under legitimate consideration, the city has taken real steps to eliminating the stigma and calming the fears of women who could do so much more with the right arrangements.

Another important move would be for local and state governments to embrace work flexibility for their own workforce, in addition to just FMLA. Telecommuting options and flexible schedules are two that make the most sense. If they started making real policies that are in practice on a wide scale, it would set a great example for the private sector.

Sara Sutton Fell,

For a community to be attractive to working mothers it needs to provide things as micro as changing tables in the public bathrooms and as macro as affordable childcare. A public library and playgrounds – the conveniences of a thriving and healthy community – are the icing on the cake.

Samantha Ettus, “Working Moms Lifestyle” Radio Show

New York City's (where I live) new full-day universal pre-K is a great, huge step that is obviously great for kids, but it is even better for working moms! Anything that guarantees quality, affordable (or free!) child care is an enormous benefit to working parents. I'd love to see more tax breaks for sole financial providers, increased deductions for child care and other educational expenses, like after-school activities.

Municipalities can give tax incentives and other preferential treatment to companies with family-friendly policies to attract and retain these businesses to their communities.

Emma Johnson,

Parents need paid parental leave, paid sick days, more flexible scheduling options, and affordable, quality childcare. Ideally, we would have government and business owners partnering to create an environment where parents can raise their families and support them financially and keep themselves healthy in the process.

Katrina Alcorn,

Protective legislation should include:

- Equal pay for equal work

- Equal recruitment, hiring, training and promotion for both genders

- Strict laws against any form of sexual harassment

Amber Rosenberg, Pacific Life Coach

Some things have made life easier for women - technology has certainly allowed women more remote access. Women are starting more and more businesses from home, and the Internet and technology has made that possible. For example, many of the students in my Inbox Empire course are setting up home-based businesses to add income to their family, all while working at home with a flexible schedule.

MaryEllen Tribby,

One thing is maternity leave because when maternity leave is unpaid and it ends too early, women just decide not to go back to work because they can't handle it. The other is more generous paternity leave because men who take paternity leave are more help with the kids for the rest of their lives, not just during paternity leave.

Penelope Trunk, Quistic, Brazen Careerist, and eCitydeals

What needs to be done to promote gender equality in the workplace?

I think what needs to be done to promote more gender equality in the work place will be more than law. Gender discrimination can be something that looks like discretion masquerading as making assessments about who is doing what quality of work, or what value certain work has, or who is more valuable when that work is done. And I think what really has to be unpacked is perhaps assumptions that are explicit, sometimes implicit, about where women are positioned in particular industries or particular places within a company.

Some of the things that can be done to promote gender equality really have to center on not just pay discrimination, but presence – where women are in organization – and the perception of women in organizations. And I think successful companies will be able to set the tone from the top. And that may not necessarily mean having a female CEO, but it certainly means having someone in leadership who is mindful of how perceptions persist that help to support gender discrimination and gender inequality.

Erika George, Utah Law

I think the first step is to realize that while gender discrimination certain still exists, what is actually more pervasive is unconscious bias, as in assuming a working mother wouldn't want a promotion because it involves travel or that an older employee might not want to learn a new technology. These biases undercut what companies must to do build a diverse and inclusive workforce, one that will open up new markets and new business for them.

Jennifer Owens, Working Mother Research Institute

Of course equal pay is an obvious answer. The idea that in 2014, women still do not make wages equivalent to their male counterparts is beyond understanding. Flexible work options are another big piece of the puzzle.

While the need for flexibility is not gender specific, the fact remains that women have to make choices between their career and their families more frequently than men do. Even when women choose to continue working after becoming a parent, the primary responsibility for handling the day-to-day and unexpected occurrences that come up, falls on them the majority of the time. When a woman knows that she can be there to take care of her family when she needs to be, the same focus and dedication she gives to them can be directed to her job.

Sara Sutton Fell,

A gender equal workplace exists when the people at the top are committed and aggressive about hiring and retaining female talent. It happens through structured policies – like paid maternity leave - as well as a cultural commitment to being a female friendly environment with zero tolerance for a boys club mentality.

Samantha Ettus, “Working Moms Lifestyle” Radio Show

The best thing employers can do is to help families thrive at work. This means flexible work schedules, opportunities to work at home whenever possible, generous health care, parental leave and other benefits. Find creative ways to express to your working employees that you value their roles in the office AND at home -- this could include paid-time-off to volunteer in your kids' school or coach soccer, for example.

This is a negligible cost to the employer, but sends an ginormous message to employees that they are valued and don't have to make Sophie's Choice decisions about work and home. But my focus is on empowering women to build their very best lives, and the best way for most moms to do that is to build their own companies or otherwise be self-employed. There are so many opportunities today to make that happen, it's an incredibly exciting time to be a professional mom today.

Emma Johnson,

Even though women are now almost half the workforce, we're still stuck in traditional gender roles at home. Women do much more housework and childcare (or eldercare), even when both parents work. One of the biggest things we could do is encourage dads to get more involved at home, which would give women more support with their caregiving responsibilities, and it would also level the playing field in the workplace.

We also need workplaces to emphasize RESULTS over work hours. Often moms are more time-constrained than people who don't have to do the daycare pick up, and yet, they're incredibly productive when they're at work. But most workplaces penalize people for working fewer hours. Part-timers make less on a pro-rated basis, but in the U.S., they also make less per hour. This is partly how women get "mommy-tracked" and it doesn't have to be this way.

Katrina Alcorn,

How to promote gender equality in workplace:

- Provide training on gender equality to management and human resources (and educate staff on nuances)

- Provide employees with quality, on-site child care facilities for all parents who work at the company

- Make sure that family leave and flex time is available to both men and women

- Showcase your company's successful women

- Publicize your company's efforts to promote gender equality and become a role model for other businesses

Amber Rosenberg, Pacific Life Coach

I agree with President Obama that workplace policies are an important source of gender inequality and agree that we should focus on making these policies more equitable. I believe that these policies should include paid medical and family leave. These policies are increasingly common for professionals, but not for all workers. Stigma may provide one potential barrier to the effectiveness of these policies. If employees are seen as deficient or less committed when taking leave, then the policies obviously will not reduce inequality. To this end, leave policies should explicitly include equal parental leave and male and female employees alike should feel comfortable taking care of their young children and other family members in need of care.

Classic sociological research identifies the deep cultural connection between work and gender. Our workplaces remain gendered spaces. I tend to agree with the idea that the ‘ideal worker’ in many workplaces is a male. Human resource policies often seem more directed towards protecting organizations against liability rather than building more equitably places of employment. This points to two things: First, federal and state legislation do have an effect by generating some focus on compliance. Second, we have a lot of work to do to change the culture of work.

Ryan Light, University of Oregon

It’s unfortunate that we need the dederal government to force us into these more equitable policies, but that often appears to be the case. It seems shortsighted for corporations to have policies that serve to discourage half of their potential workforce. One would hope that the success of firms having more enlightened policies would motivate others as well. Annual listings such as Fortune Magazine’s ‘Best Companies To Work For’ actually may serve as drivers of this change, attracting better quality workers to the best working situations and serving as a model for the companies that lag behind.

The essential question is whether or not we want both men and women to have equitable opportunities to utilize their talents in the workplace. Anything less than that reduces our overall productivity. And, if workers can only successfully participate by severely compromising their family responsibilities, then we all pay that price in the resulting social problems.

Daniel M. Roddick, Rio Hondo College

As companies become more and more willing to provide family-friendly options - like part-time work and flexible schedules - both companies and employees win. This applies to both men and women. Also, companies are starting to recognize that some women, particularly mothers, may not have a straight path up the corporate ladder. The best companies recognize the talents and benefits women bring to the table regardless of their career path. We are seeing more and more women in high profile positions - like Sheryl Sandburg, the COO of Facebook, and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. These high profile stories inspire a lot of women to pursue higher level positions.

MaryEllen Tribby,

The pay gap between men and women in their 20s is that women are out-earning men significantly. So, it's not like the gap is based on gender. The gap is based on women not wanting to work really long hours when they have kids. Women without kids out-earn men without kids.

Penelope Trunk, Quistic, Brazen Careerist, and eCitydeals

You hear about all these companies that have laundry services, yoga, etc. Well, why not have a day care center? That would allow working moms to have their children close and to know that they can come check in on them during their break. It would make things easier. The best thing that companies and jurisdictions can do is to really make it easy for working moms to spend quality time with their kids while also focusing on their career.

Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista


WalletHub evaluated the attractiveness of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia based on the nine metrics listed below, which were selected based on their significance to various aspects of a working mother’s life – from the home front to the workplace and everywhere in between. States were ranked in each category, and these individual rankings were then used to create overall rankings based on the weights listed beside each metric below. The three overall metric categories – Child Care, Professional Opportunities and Work-Life Balance – were used for organizational purposes only and had no impact on the overall rankings.

Child Care

Day Care Quality Rankings: 1

Child Care Costs, Adjusted for the Median Woman’s Salary: 1

Access to Pediatric Services (Number of Pediatricians per 100,000 residents): 1

Public School Quality: 1

Professional Opportunities

Gender Pay Gap (Women’s Earnings as a Percentage Of Men’s): 1

Ratio of Female to Male Executives: 1

Work-Life Balance

Parental Leave Policy Score: 1

Length of the Average Woman’s Workday: 0.5

Average Commute Time: 0.5

Sources: The information used to construct this report is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Child Care Aware of America, U.S. News & World Report, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and National Partnership for Women & Families.

John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
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