In the World Economic Forum's ranking of 144 countries based on gender equality, the U.S. this year plummeted to the 45th position from its previous rank of 28th on the Global Gender Gap Index.
Because the nation fell 17 spots in a year, WalletHub analysts came out with a new study comparing all 50 states across 15 key metrics, and found that Oregon ranks as the No. 8 best state for women's equality.
The study measured gaps between men and women in income, executive positions, work hours, educational attainment and political representation. These criteria were evaluated under 15 relevant metrics on a 100-point scale.
Oregon ranked above average across the categories, coming in first in the Educational Attainment Gap category based on bachelor's degree holders.
According to the census, 30.8 percent of Oregonians over the age of 25 hold a Bachelor's degree or ever higher educational degree.
Women, since around 2014-2015, earn the majority of college degrees in America as a whole according to the Washington Post, making up around 57.4 percent of bachelor's degree graduates.
Oregon ranked sixth in the minimum-wage workers gap category, seventh in the entrepreneurship rate gap, 14th in the executive positions gap, 15th in the earnings gap and 16th in the political representation gap.
For example, Oregon is one of only four states with a woman as governor (Gov. Kate Brown). Oregon also has a woman Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek, and a woman House Majority Leader, Representative Jennifer Williamson.
"Oregon ranked highly due to its results across multiple metrics: in Educational-Attainment Disparity and Disparity in Share of State-Elected Executives, the state ranked first at 0.24 percent and 50 percent respectively," WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez told the Business Tribune. "Both numbers show that women are actually favored here rather than men."
WalletHub collected data from the U.S. Census bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Women's Law Center, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Center for American Women and Politics.
Hawaii, Nevada, Illinois and Minnesota are the top four states for gender equity in that order, with Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Utah coming in last.
"Compared to Washington, even though the two states have similar overall rank, they do not necessarily share the same traits. In the metrics for which Oregon ranks high, Washington typically ranks low — and vice versa," Gonzalez said. "For instance, in unemployment-rate disparity, Oregon ranks 41st at 0.3 percent (meaning that 0.3 percent more women are unemployed than men) while Washington ranks first at -0.8 percent. On the other hand, in educational-attainment disparity, Oregon ranks first at 0.24 percent, while Washington ranks 41st at -0.19 percent."
The experts on the study say cultural disparities surrounding harmful gender norms have been silenced even more in the past year during the political storm that has divided Americans among themselves.
"I have no single recommendation as how to address what has become a virtual taboo against discussing stereotypes, biases, double standards and double binds that are still very much alive in our culture," said Susan Bordo, professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Kentucky. "Each of us, wherever and however we can — whether in the family, in the classroom, or at work — can work to find a way to start talking again. Arguing, even loudly, is healthier than this deafening silence."
Other experts on the study say that harmful gender norms such as a primary caretaker family model (one designated homemaker, one designated breadwinner, which isn't sustainable in today's inflated households that require two incomes) sets up the paid labor market to have no caretaking responsibilities, which is rewarded by the income tax structure.
"(And) quality childcare is extremely expensive," said Melina Constantine Bell, professor of philosophy and law at Washington and Lee university. "All these factors contribute to the decision that many married couples make to prioritize the labor market participation of the higher wage earner, while the caretaker plays a support role by performing the family work without pay. This constitutes a subsidy by the family worker to the wage earner's employer, and to society."
That's because the wage earner can spend more time performing paid work, and because children are a "non-rivalrous, non-excludable public good," she said.
Oregon's income disparity between men and women is -17 percent, which ranks 15th in the nation. The entrepreneurship disparity rate is -34.3 percent, and in working hours is -14.07 percent.
Hopefully that statistic is moving toward supporting women: according to the 2016 Oppenheimer Funds Study, women started businesses at twice the rate of men last year, launching 1,300 businesses per day in the U.S. — and yet, women receive only 5 percent of the total dollars in conventional small business loans according to the Senate Report: 21st Century Barriers to Women's Entrepreneurship.
Oregon's disparity in the share of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate is -100 percent (both are men: Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley) — and still ranks 19th. In the House, the disparity rate is -75 percent, also ranking 19th: among Greg Walden (R), Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio, Oregon also has Suzanne Bonamici serving.
In the Oregon Legislature, there are 38 representatives who are men and 21 who are women.
In the study, Oregon's disparity in the share of lawmakers in the state legislature is -50 percent, ranking eighth. As for state-elected executives, the disparity rate is 50 percent, which ranks Oregon No. 1.
"Oregon's numbers for women in politics are on the up, and its disparities between unemployment or underemployment among women are down," Gonzalez said.
Oregon's overall score is 59.54 out of 100 possible points.
By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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