How Does Your State Rank on Women’s Rights?

Women’s rights and opportunities vary across state lines in America. Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security‘s new U.S. Women, Peace and Security Index ranks all 50 states and reveals vast differences in women’s status: Massachusetts, at the top, scores almost four times better than Louisiana, at the bottom. See where your state ranks.

How Does Your State Rank on Women’s Rights?

How Do We Measure Women’s Status?

Our U.S. WPS Index offers the most comprehensive measurement of women’s status. It goes beyond their inclusion in the economy and politics to capture key aspects of justice and legal protections, as well as women’s security against violence in their homes and communities.

American women face serious inequalities and injustices, according to our analysis of 12 indicators. In 37 states, domestic abusers subject to protective orders are not required to relinquish firearms.

In Louisiana, maternal mortality is as high as in Libya.

In West Virginia, only 13 percent of the state legislature is female.  

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A Deeply Unequal United States

Women’s legal protections are one of the areas that vary most by state. The state a woman lives in determines her ability to file a workplace sexual harassment claim, her level of protection from an abusive partner, whether she can take paid time off for caregiving, and more.

No state offers full legal protections of women’s rights; six states offer none.

How Does Your State Rank on Women’s Rights?

Racial Disparities Among Women

Gender inequalities are compounded by racial injustice. 

Racial gaps are most marked for women’s college completion, maternal mortality, and state legislative representation.

In New Jersey, maternal mortality rates for Black women are almost quadruple those for white women and are worse than rates in Iraq and Nicaragua.

As seen at a September 2017 Black Lives Matter protest. (Miki Jourdan / Flickr)

Do Americans Support Gender Equality?

There is some good news, however. Roughly half of the country is aware of gender inequities in the U.S. and a solid majority of Americans support gender equality and see equal pay and reproductive healthcare as key components, according to a nationally representative survey commissioned for our report in August 2020 by YouGov and PerryUndem. There was also overwhelming support for affordable child care in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, support levels for actions to advance gender equality were much lower among Republicans and white men. Close to half of all American adults (46 percent) do not think the US is a global leader in gender equality—compared to 90 percent of Republican men.

Call to Action

Based on our findings, we call on the federal government to act urgently to advance women’s wellbeing, not least to assure the adequate minimum protections that are currently lacking.

“The federal government must provide fuller legal protections and stronger social safety nets—like paid parental leave and increased minimum wage,” said Amb. Melanne Verveer, executive director of GIWPS.

She adds: “The government must ensure that the intersectional challenges of gender, race and class are recognized and addressed, not denied or overlooked.”

The U.S. report builds on a global WPS Index, launched in 2017 and updated in 2019, that evaluates women’s well-being across 167 countries around the world. The United States ranks 19th globally on women’s wellbeing.

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Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. GIWPS engages in rigorous research, hosts global convenings, advances strategic partnerships and nurtures the next generation of leaders.