Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, and nearly 68% of moms with children under age 18 were working in 2021. Unfortunately, the share of women in the workforce declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dropping around 1.3% between Q3 2019 and Q3 2021 (compared to 1.1% for men).
Even during non-pandemic times, working moms still face an uphill battle in the workplace, as their average hourly wage is only 84% of what men make, and only 6.2% of S&P 500 companies’ chief executives are women. Such obvious inequality brings up not just financial questions but also deeply ingrained social issues. For instance, should women have to choose between career and family?
The real question, however, is what we’re doing about these fundamental problems. Progress appears to be taking shape at different rates across the nation. 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 — is far from uniform as well.
In order to help ease the burden on an underappreciated segment of the population, WalletHub compared state dynamics across 17 key metrics to identify the Best & Worst States for Working Moms.
Best and Worst States for Working Moms
|6||District of Columbia||57.35||11||7||7|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
For added insight into how to address workplace gender inequality, especially for working mothers, we turned to a panel of experts. They range from university professors who research gender roles and economics to the authors of some of the most popular career and women’s blogs. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- What can companies do to help working parents balance home and work life?
- What careers are most difficult to balance work and family? Easiest?
- In evaluating the best states for working moms, what are the top five indicators?
- According to a recent report, more than 2.3 million American women had dropped out completely from the labor force since the start of the pandemic. What can state and local governments do to support working mothers during this troubling time?
- Given the current shift in the workforce supply-demand chain, and with 1 in 4 parents suffering from burnout, what are some key drivers to attract, retain and support working parents?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best and worst states for working moms, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Child Care, 2) Professional Opportunities and 3) Work-Life Balance.
We evaluated those dimensions using 17 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for working moms.
We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Child Care – Total Points: 40
- Day-Care Quality: Double Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Child-Care Costs: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the median women’s salary.
- Pediatricians per Capita: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
- School-System Quality: Double Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best & Worst School Systems” ranking.
- Share of Nationally Accredited Child Care Centers: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
- Number of Childcare Workers per Total Number of Children: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
Note: Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children, such as dressing, bathing, feeding, and overseeing play. They may help younger children prepare for kindergarten or assist older children with homework.
Professional Opportunities – Total Points: 30
- Gender Pay Gap: Double Weight (~6.67 Points)
Note: This metric measures women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s.
- Ratio of Female Executives to Male Executives: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Median Women’s Salary: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Share of Working Women Living with Economic Security: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Basic Economic Security Tables (BEST) Index, which measures how much income working adults of different family types need to be economically secure. Economic security means having “enough income to meet…basic monthly expenses—such as housing, food, transportation and child care expenses—and save for emergencies and retirement.”
- Share of Families in Poverty: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: “Families” include single mothers with children aged 0 to 17.
- Female Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Gender-Representation Gap in Different Economic Sectors: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the absolute difference between the share of female employees and male employees.
- WalletHub “Best States for Working from Home” Ranking: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best States for Working from Home” ranking.
Work-Life Balance – Total Points: 30
- Parental-Leave Policy Score: Double Weight (~15.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the report card from Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help Expecting and New Parents.
- Average Length of a Woman’s Work Week (in Hours): Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Women’s Average Commute Time (in Minutes): Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Child Care Aware® of America, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Council for Community and Economic Research, Institute for Women's Policy Research, National Partnership for Women & Families and WalletHub research.