Utah’s ‘Mad Men’ Problem: State Ranks 49 Out of 50 For Women’s Workplace Equality

Characters Pete Campbell and Peggy in the hit show Mad Men, image courtesy of AMC
Characters Pete Campbell and Peggy Olson in the hit show Mad Men, image courtesy of AMC

Pete: “Where are you from? Are you Amish or something”
Peggy: “No. I’m from Brooklyn.”
Pete: “Well, you’re in the city now. It wouldn’t be a sin for us to see your legs. If you pull your waist in, you might look like a woman.”
Peggy: “Is that all Mr. Draper?”
Pete: “Hey, I’m not done here. I’m working my way up.”

That’s a scene from AMC’s hit TV show Mad Men set in a New York ad agency in the 1960s, depicting the acceptable sexism in the era’s workplaces. Decades later, both the United States government and American culture have taken strides to correct inequality—several laws have been passed to protect against discrimination based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, and (in some places) sexual orientation, among others. But, just because the law states that a class can’t experience social and economic discrimination, it doesn’t mean that discrimination no longer exists. And according to a new study, Utah still has a long way to go.

The study, conducted by Wallet Hub, found some unfortunately not-so-surprising trends for the nation as a whole, but in particular, about Utah. It examined which states were the best and worst for women’s workplace equality in the country. How did Utah fair? 49th out of 50. According to the study, the only worse place to be a woman in the workplace is Wyoming.

Screenshot 2014-09-10 at 11.38.20 PM
The study by Wallet Hub depicts the best and worst states for women’s equality in the workplace. Utah ranks 49th out of 50.

When the study was first released this year, many Utahns questioned what factors were used to determine our ranking. There was also concern that the report didn’t take Utah’s unique culture into account.

The report was based on three data categories, and 10 subcategories. Utah ranked close to last in each.

The first category ranked the overall workplace environment for women. This was determined by examining the pay (median weekly earnings), number of female executives, average work hours (for full time workers specifically) of men versus women, number of minimum wage workers for both sexes, and the unemployment rate. Utah came in at 44th overall in this category.

Secondly, Wallet Hub examined the health and education for women in each state. They observed the number of female residents at least 25 years old with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, and the life expectancy on average of women 65 and older. Utah scored worst in the nation in this particular category.

Basic knowledge of Utah’s culture may explain the results of the second category. Utah is unique in the percentage of “stay-at-home” moms, which leads to less women with higher education. In the study, Wallet Hub did not provide specifics for how this ranking was determined.

The third and final category was based on political empowerment of women. This section was weighed by the number of female lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representative, as well as how many females held office in the state legislature. Utah resulted 47 out of the 50 states in this portion of the study, with no women currently representing the state in Congress, and despite women making up over 49 percent of the state’s population, only 16 percent of the state legislature is female.

While Utah’s performance in equal rights for women ranked low in this report, the study also discovered some alarming statistics nationwide. The United States doesn’t even make the top 20 list of countries for equal rights for women worldwide. We follow behind several developing nations, including Burundi, Nicaragua, and the Philippines, to name a few.

Wallet Hub also reported that nationally, “women continue to be disproportionately under-represented in leadership positions. This past March, the Center for American Progress reported that women ‘are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500… CEOs.’” This despite the fact that women comprise the majority of the labor force in the financial services and health care industries.

The study also found concerns for income levels between men and women nationwide. “About two-thirds of minimum-wage workers across the country are female,” according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). At the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the NWLC points out that a full-time worker would earn only $14,500 a year, placing a three-person family “thousands of dollars below the federal poverty line. NWLC also reports that “American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.”

Overall, it is apparent that as a nation, but even more so as a state, women are not being given the same opportunities and avenues for success as men. The culture may have greatly changed since the days depicted in Mad Men, and overt sexism in the workplace is largely no longer accepted, but discrimination against women is far from over.

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