Idaho Gets An F When It Comes To Economic Security And Leadership Roles For Women

Sep 26, 2013

States in shades of green earned the highest scores while states in orange and red have the lowest.
Credit Center For American Progress screengrab

Economic success stories and leadership roles for women in Idaho are few and far between, at least that's according to a new report by the Center for American Progress.

Idaho scored a D and is ranked 36th among states for female progress, as measured by things like the gender wage gap, poverty, education, business and political leadership roles, and health outcomes.

When it comes to health issues, Idaho got an average grade and ranked in the top half of states when measuring things like insurance availability and access to reproductive healthcare.

It's the economic and leadership opportunities for Idaho women that had the poorest showing. Idaho earned an F in both measures in the State of Women in America report.

Idaho women are in the bottom 10 states for economic security. An Idaho woman makes $0.75 for every $1.00 a man earns. If the federal minimum wage was raised from $7.25 an hour to $10.10, the report shows more than half of the people who would be affected in Idaho are women. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Idaho's poverty rate was 15.9 percent in 2012. For women, that rate increases to 17.1 percent.

Buffy Wicks is a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress. She says Idaho's minimum wage, poverty rate, and absence of public preschool were the main factors for the state's failing grade in the economic security category.

“There’s an intersection when you look at economic issues, leadership and health factors," says Wicks. "All these play a part in the well-being of women and families across the country. It’s important we look at them in totality."

We reported last year that Idaho had more female state legislators than most states. More than a quarter of Idaho's 105-member Legislature are women. That stat wasn't enough to earn Idaho a better grade in the State of Women report's leadership measure. Idaho gets an F in that category too and joins South Dakota, Kentucky, Arkansas and Utah in the bottom five states.

"During the 2012 election cycle, a record number of women candidates filed to run for office, and women now comprise 18.1 percent of Congress -- the highest percentage ever," the report finds. None of Idaho's four congressmen are women. And Idaho doesn't have any women elected to a statewide office.

Cece Gassner is the vice president of Go Lead Idaho, she works in the economic development office for the city of Boise.
Credit City of Boise

The organization Go Lead Idaho formed a few years ago to try and get more women elected to office and in the CEO chair. “We think it’s very important to have women in these kinds of roles just to make sure that different perspectives are being aired and are in the room, part of the conversation,” says Go Lead Idaho Vice President Cece Gassner.

She says women are tougher to convince to run for office, sometimes requiring up to eight asks before they're willing to throw their hat in the ring. Part of that, says Gassner can be too few examples of women leaders.

“Of course if you don’t see female CEOs in your community, you don’t see female leaders – you don’t then provide the role model for other people to step up and say ‘I can be a leader too’,” Gassner says.

In business, the report finds 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Nationally, women make up 38 percent of all management positions. Idaho's average is even lower with 33.9 percent of women in management roles. The State of Women report data also includes racial breakdowns. Their Census data show women American Indians hold 61 percent of all management jobs among that race.

Wicks says there is much room for women to gain leadership roles in Idaho. "This is crucially important," says Wicks. "I believe when women are at the decision making table, they’re going to take into account things like paid family medical leave, [and] increasing the minimum wage. We think it’s important to have their voice at the table.”