WASHINGTON – Maryland is the third-best state in the country for women to live, according to a new report on how women fare economically, politically, and in legal and reproductive rights.
“The Status of Women in the States,” released Thursday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said the overall quality of life for women in Maryland trailed only that in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.
“The smart states are realizing the potential of women as leaders and business owners,” said Linda Tarr-Whelan, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, who was among the presenters of the report.
“It shows us that all too often your well-being is determined by the state you’re living in and it [the report] is an accessible tool for policy makers and advocates,” Tarr-Whelan said.
The report reviewed the wage gap between men and women, the number of women-owned small businesses, the number of female political officeholders, access to abortion and public funding for both contraception and infertility.
Based on the strength of wages, educational attainment and economic independence of its women, Maryland was rated third-most female-friendly.
“I think the status of women in Maryland is good. It’s a great place for women but there is still a lot to do. I wouldn’t want people to get the impression that things are perfect,” said Judith Vaughan-Prather, executive director of the Montgomery County Commission for Women.
Maryland ranked 37th in voter turnout by women, for example. And women in the state are still at a disadvantage in many areas, said Vaughan-Prather.
“Maryland is a strong place for women based on quality of life and opportunity, but if you look at the poor, most are women,” she said.
“Men have an easier time getting out of poverty than women do,” said Vaughan-Prather. “A single mother of a child under 5 is 10 times more likely to live in poverty and 58 percent of all single-female-headed households live in poverty.”
Vaughan-Prather said though there is more work to be done, Maryland has shown considerable attention to women’s issues. The state ranked No. 1 in the number of women’s institutional resources, such as commissions, state agenda projects and legislative caucuses for women.
“I think one thing that demonstrates that Maryland is a state for women is that the number of commissions for women have been increasing,” she said. “The number went from seven to 17 and I think that indicates recognition by the government that there needs to be attention shown to the needs and concerns of its female constituents.”
The study also said the state had the second-highest percentage of women in professional and managerial positions and the fourth-highest median annual earnings for women.
The quality of economic life for women in Maryland has remained relatively the same as it was in 1996, when the first series of reports was released.
The report is part of an ongoing research project by the institute aimed at establishing baseline measures of the status of women in the states.
“Women pay a penalty in their paychecks even in the best states,” said Heidi Hartmann, director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
“Public policies can affect the size of the gender pay gap status. If you don’t vote and your pay doesn’t go up, you have no one to blame but yourself,” Hartmann said.