Georgetown University Ranks Best and Worst States for Women


WASHINGTON, D.C. | October 8, 2020 – The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security released a ranking of American women’s rights and opportunities across 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The first-ever U.S. Women, Peace and Security Index (US WPS Index) reveals vast differences in the status of women across America, with Massachusetts at the top, scoring almost four times better than Louisiana at the bottom.

The US 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.

The report offers striking global comparisons. In Louisiana, maternal mortality is as high as in Libya. In West Virginia, 13% of the state legislature is female – the same as Burkina Faso. Utah has a gender employment gap on par with the Philippines.

Disparities across states are worst for women’s legal protections and reproductive healthcare access. 

“The state in which a woman lives determines, among other things, her ability to file a workplace sexual harassment claim, her level of protection from an abusive partner, and whether she can take paid time off for caregiving,” said Dr. Jeni Klugman, Managing Director of GIWPS and lead author of the US WPS Index.

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.

There is some good news, however. Roughly half of the country is aware of gender inequities in the US 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 the 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%) do not think the US is a global leader in gender equality – compared to 90% of Republican men.

The report argues that the federal government does need 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 US 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.

The new US WPS Index was supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.


About Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security (GIWPS)
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. We engage in rigorous research, host global convenings, advance strategic partnerships, and nurture the next generation of leaders. Housed within the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, the Institute is headed by the former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter and Facebook @giwps and Instagram @georgetown_wps.

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