TODAY   |  March 23, 2012

Which states are the most female-friendly?

Kelly Wallace of iVillage talks about the site’s new list of the best and worst states for women, noting the relevance of the survey during a presidential election year in which reproductive rights have taken center stage.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this morning on "today's woman," the best states for women . from health care to child care , education and economics,ated to ares at examined every state to come up with a list of the top female friendly states. and kelly wallace is chief correspondent at ivillage and she's here to reveal the list.

>> good morning.

>> what criteria were you using?

>> we looked at a range of factors. the most important issues for women , health care , the economy, how many women have health insurance , what's their median income , what's the poverty rate . we also look at what laws were on the books supporting parenting, parental leave , breast feeding . costs of child care , politics. representation at the state level. in the governor's mansion. in the congress. we looked at what laws were on the book supporting access to abortion and contraception coverage and also education. how many women in the state have a college degree .

>> took you all a couple of months. very busy over there. let's get right to it. the top five and they are first off, the first state is connecticut .

>> right. drum roll .

>> number one. and why did you find it to be the highest ranking?

>> our rankings here it ranked in the top five in more categories than any other state . 90% of women in connecticut had health insurance . more than a third have college degrees. that's above the national average.

>> great.

>> it also has one of the highest median incomes in the country, of $46,000. for all those reasons, all those top rankings, it earned the number one spot.

>> where could it do better?

>> it has some more to do, connecticut . when it comes to representation because it has a seven-member congressional delegation. only one woman, so it has some work to do there.

>> also child care . expensive.

>> yes, it's expensive.

>> second highest honors went to hawaii. and i understand nearly a third of all businesses there are owned by women .

>> exactly. just saw a report yesterday, in fact, that women -owned businesses in hawaii grew 55% over the past 15 years. women are in owning businesses from construction to tourism, to employment. and they're probably now getting some help from their lawmakers. the state 's two congressional members are women and more than a third of the legislature is made up of women . so more women in office, more women supporting businesses.

>> one of the areas of improvement is the cost of child care there.

>> exactly. what we found across the board, we found states with some of the highest median incomes and highest college graduation rates had some of the highest costs of child care . low median income , low graduation, had low child care costs. we want child care costs to be low. but it does seem to be that the costs are a factor of how much people are willing and able to pay.

>> third on the list is maryland . why is maryland attractive for women ?

>> a lot of things going for it. 36% of women in this state are college graduates. it has the highest median income for women , more than $47,000. one of the lowest poverty rates. also ranks number one in the category of women 's owned businesses. one-third of the businesses in maryland are owned by women .

>> next up, is massachusetts. and here, 96% of women have health care . and health care being the reason because governor romney.

>> exactly, it's a law, it's a retirement. you're required to have health insurance . it's ironic former governor romney doesn't want to talk about it but it's because of this that puts women in the state in a really good spot. nearly 85% of women in the state are getting their regular mammograms and pap smears. it's the highest screening rate in the country. obviously makes them healthier. also has one of the highest median incomes in the country. more than $46,000.

>> child care i understand is also one of the most expensive in the nation.

>> one of the most expensive. again, that does come to a factor that we sort of need to do, don't we all agree, moms with kids.

>> that's right.

>> and in new york we need to do more to bring those costs down. fifth on the list is california, and what laws have been created there to support women ?

>> gets sort of an a-plus from abortion rights groups when it comes to laws providing access to family planning services. victims of sexual saturday it's a requirement that they get emergency contraception when they go to the emergency room . also right to choose is part of the state constitution . interesting thing we found, states where they had great representation in office, california, two senators are women , and sent more women to congress than any other state and had some of the best laws on the books when it comes to reproductive rights .

>> put more women in congress. kelly wallace, thanks so much.