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Which states ranks the best and the worst for gender equity?

The best place to be a woman, if you’re interested in workplaces that promote equal opportunity, is Nevada. New Hampshire rates highest for women’s political empowerment. Mississippi takes the top spot for women’s health and education. But the best place in the country for gender equity? Hawaii.

That’s at least according to a new report by WalletHub, a personal finance Web site, that crunched data from the  Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources to come up with the state rankings on gender disparities – and to remind people just how wide they still are on Women’s Equality Day, which is Tuesday.

Arizona and California have the smallest pay gaps between men and women, while Louisiana and Wyoming have the largest. Women make up about 40 percent of the state legislatures of Colorado and Vermont, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, but barely 12 percent in Louisiana and South Carolina. (WalletHub, combining state and federal office holders, ranked New Hampshire number one for the smallest gender gap in political representation. Wyoming and South Carolina were tied for last.)

Interestingly, the states that ranked overall in the top 15 for having the smallest gender gaps all voted Democratic in the 2012 presidential election. These “best” states cluster in the Northeast, far west and include Florida, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Those ranked in the bottom six, — Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas, Idaho and Utah — all voted Republican.

WalletHub found a similar political divide in an earlier report on the best place to be a working mother. The top 10, starting with Oregon and the District of Columbia, all lean Democratic. The “worst” places, again, voted Republican and tended to skew mountain west and deep south.

Source: WalletHub

But honestly, no state is doing particularly well.

Across the country, women still earn less than men for doing the same job, and that wage gap exists at the bottom of the ladder in low-wage jobs all the way to the C-suite, where, by the way, they make up barely 15 percent of executive officers, 8 percent of top earners and 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

The gender disparities are still so stark that the World Economic Forum in its most recent Global Gender Gap report dropped the United States several rungs, from 17th in the world in 2011, to 23rd. The United States, the richest country in the world, ranks just below Burundi, as well as the less advanced economies of Nicaragua, Latvia, the Philippines, Cuba and Lesotho. We rank far lower than the Nordic countries like Iceland, Finland and Norway, numbers one, two and three respectively.

The United States ranks first in the World Economic Forum’s report for having the smallest gender gap in education. We rank sixth in the world for closing the gender gap in economic participation. But what drags the rank down is this: politics.

Source: WalletHub’s 1014 Best and Worst States for Women’s Equality report

The United States ranks 60th in the world for political empowerment – 76th on the “women in parliament” scale.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon. In 2012, 335 female candidates signed up to run in congressional primaries, The Center for American Women and Politics reported. This year, there were 280. And as midterm elections approach, only 184 – of 435 seats – are still in the running.

Why does gender equity matter?

Perhaps Klaus Schwab, executive chair of the World Economic Forum, says it best. “Countries and companies can be competitive only if they develop, attract and retain the best talent, both male and female,” he wrote in the preface of the global gender equity report. “While governments have an important role to play in creating the right policy framework for improving women’s access and opportunities, it is also the imperative of companies to create workplaces where the best talent can flourish.

“Civil society, educators and media,” he added, “also have an important role to play in both empowering women and engaging men in the process.”

Brigid Schulte writes about Good-Life: work-life issues, time, productivity, gender and income inequality. She is the author of the bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One has Time.

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