Patrick Ball @PatrickBall

recovering journalist. content and strategy at writing about policies, problems and benefits affecting working families.

What Are the Best and Worst States for Working Moms?

What are the best states for working moms?

Women make up nearly half of the workforce and are contributing to family income more than ever before. But working moms don’t have it easy.

From the scarcity of paid maternity leave to the soaring cost of child care, modern families in general – and working moms especially – face many challenges. And, since the United States has no federal paid leave policy for new moms, and factors like quality of child care and schools vary widely, the supports in place for working moms can be very different from state to state.

With that in mind, WalletHub has released its list of the Best and Worst States for Working Moms, based on 12 key metrics, including child care, professional opportunities and work-life balance.

How does your home state stack up? And what can be done to better support working moms?

Vermont Is Best In Class

If you’re a working mom, New England’s a nice option. Although the child care can be quite expensive, it’s somewhat offset by strong professional opportunities and high marks for work-life balance.  

WalletHub names Vermont the best state for working moms, while New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine also crack the Top 10. Connecticut is tied for 12th, and Rhode Island ranks 19th. The Great Lakes region is also well represented, with Minnesota (2), Wisconsin (3) and Ohio (10) all ranked in the Top 10.

Southeastern states scored poorly, according to WalletHub’s rankings. From the Carolinas over to Arkansas, only Florida (30) was ranked higher than 43. Louisiana was dead last.

Of the three states with paid leave policies, New Jersey was ranked highest (15), followed by Rhode Island and California (32). Washington, which ranked 6th, signed a paid leave insurance law, but it’s not yet in effect due to the lack of a funding mechanism. And Washington D.C., which was ranked 34 by WalletHub, offers paid family leave for full-time, select part-time and executive service city workers.

So Now What?

We know it’s not easy being a working mom, but women’s success in the workforce is essential to the success of businesses and, in the big picture, the global economy.

The composition of the American workforce has changed over the past decades. Women make up the majority of college graduates and nearly 50 percent of the workforce. In two-thirds of American families, both parents work and 40 percent of breadwinners are women.

Working moms are a fact of life, and it’s in the best interest of our companies – and our country – to adjust to the needs of our modern workforce by supporting gender parity in the workplace.

Research has shown that gender diversity on executive boards improves organizational growth and performance, and yet fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John, Robert, William or James.

As female workforce participation has increased, the economy has grown. In America, our economy is an estimated 13.5 percent – that’s $2 trillion – larger than it would be without increased labor force participation since 1970. And there’s still room for growth – closing the gender gap in employment rates could boost our GDP by as much as 9 percent, according to a report by Goldman Sachs.

Yet about 20 percent of new moms are still quitting their jobs, and nearly 50 percent of working parents have reportedly turned down job offers or promotions because it wouldn’t have worked for their families.

When working mothers (or fathers) pass up opportunities or even withdraw from the workforce, everybody loses. They’re limiting they’re lifetime earning – and spending – potential, and their employers lose talent and institutional knowledge.

So what would help working mothers find a better work-life fit?

1. Parental Leave
Less than 15 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has reintroduced the FAMILY Act, legislation that would create a gender-neutral program offering 60 days of paid family leave for all American workers, regardless of the size of the company they work for. In the meantime, it’s largely up to employers to provide paid leave for new parent employees.

And there are business benefits for doing so. For example, moms who have paid maternity leave tend to be more likely to return to their pre-birth employers and remain loyal, productive contributors to the organization. But it’s not only maternity leave that benefits working mothers. Research has shown that women whose husbands take paternity leave earn more over the course of their careers, ostensibly because dads who take an active parenting role around the birth of a new child are more likely to share in caregiving responsibilities for years down the line.

2. Care Assistance
Child care is the single biggest budget item for many families. Layering that on top of other work-related costs, like time and taxes, families across all income levels are weighing out whether it pays to work. And so care remains one of the biggest barriers to female labor force participation. Improving access to quality, affordable child care will help women remain engaged in their careers and be confident in the care their children receive.

To this end, President Obama has proposed tripling the child care tax credit to $3,000 per young child. And some leading employers are lending new parent employees a hand by providing child care resource and referral benefits, or even connecting parents with backup care to cover last-minute care needs. Enterprises that do provide these care assistance benefits find employees report higher levels of job satisfaction, and are able to work more hours each week and more days each year.

3. Work-Life Integration
Enterprises offering family-friendly benefits and programs experience reduced absenteeism and turnover, and are able to fuel performance by attracting and retaining the best workers, while enabling them to be focused and productive while working. As our workforce and workplaces evolve, so too should programs and policies. Flexible work arrangements and a focus on results rather than when or where work gets done can help working mothers (and fathers) achieve a successful work-life balance or integration.