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How California Stacks Up Against the Worst States for Women Workers

Pacific Standard tries an exercise in schadenfreude.
Rosie the Riveter. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Rosie the Riveter. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

California has one of the strictest equal-pay laws in America, thanks to a bill Governor Jerry Brown signed yesterday. California employers now must pay women and men equally for "substantially similar work," even if they don't have the same job title or work at the same site—which is how California courts used to interpret the law, the Los Angeles Times reports. This news made us wonder: How do female workers in California fare compared to the national average? More importantly, for schadenfreude purposes, how does California compare to some of America's worst states for women workers' welfare?

Nearly all states have equal pay laws of some kind. Alabama and Mississippi are the only states not to have any sort of equal pay law. In addition, the Institute for Women's Policy Research recently ranked Alabama and Mississippi among the bottom 10 in the nation in terms of the proportion of women in the states who work, and those women's earnings.

Let's take a look at how Alabama, Mississippi, and California compare, by the numbers:


  • Alabama has one of the worst gender pay gaps in the nation. Alabama women who work full-time earn 76 cents for every dollar that full-time, male workers make.
  • Only about 53 percent of women in the state work, but then again, not many men work, either—only 64 percent.
  • In Alabama, as in the United States overall, a larger proportion of working women than working men have managerial or professional jobs—39 percent vs. 29 percent. That the pay gap persists despite this fact points to the need for more equitable pay among some of America's top earners.


  • Mississippi's gender pay gap is slightly worse than Alabama's: Women earn 75 cents to the dollar that men make.
  • Fifty-four percent of women in the state work, compared to 62 percent of men.
  • Thirty-six percent of working Mississippi women are in managerial or professional jobs. Only 25 percent of men are.


  • Full-time, working California women earn 84 cents for every dollar full-time California men make.
  • Fifty-seven percent of California women are in the workforce, compared to 70 percent of men.
  • Forty percent of working California women are in managerial or professional positions, compared to 34 percent of men.


  • The national gender pay gap is 79 cents to the dollar.
  • Fifty-nine percent of adult American women work, compared to 69 percent of men.
  • Forty percent of working American women are in professional or managerial positions. Thirty-three percent of working American men are.

In terms of the proportion of women in the workforce, California fares only a little better than some of the "worst" states. So much for shadenfreude. But Californians do have one major reason to celebrate: The state's gender pay gap is already among the top 10 smallest in the nation. Perhaps Brown's law will close it even faster.