The State of Oklahoma Women (Part One): Economic security and leadership

StateOfWomen-COVERThis is the first of a two-part series examining the state of women in Oklahoma based on three indicators: economic security, leadership and health of women and families. The first post focuses on economic security and leadership; the second post will examine the health of women and families.

In September, the Center for American Progress released a report titled, “The State of Women in America: A 50-State Analysis of How Women are Faring Across the Nation.” The report uses a total of fourteen indicators in three categories – economic security, the leadership gap, and women’s health and healthy families – to produce a nationwide ranking.

Oklahoma came in at 48th out of 50. And while it isn’t unusual for Oklahoma to wind up at the narrow ends of the bell curve for any nationwide ranking (incarceration, meth labs, murders of women by men), Oklahoma actually rated relatively well in two of the three categories: economic security and leadership.

Oklahoma ranked 18th out of 50 for economic security. While Oklahoma scored poorly on such indicators as the percentage of women in poverty (18.7 percent, or 39th), Oklahoma’s stellar early childhood education statistics rather made up for it. Oklahoma ranked sixth for average spending per child enrolled in pre-K. Only Florida boasted higher enrollment in state pre-K (79.4 percent against 74.1 percent), although the disproportionately low representation of low-income children enrolled in preschool in Oklahoma points to the need to make sure policymakers don’t let the state’s gains slip away.

Oklahoma scored less well in terms of women in leadership (41st), where women are largely absent. While the state does have a female governor, gains made by individuals are often not reflective of gains across groups. None of Oklahoma’s US congressional seats and only 13.4 percent of seats on the state legislature are held by women. Just over one percent of Oklahoma’s elected state and federal positions are held by minority women (nine states fared the same or worse, but forty managed to do better). And Oklahoma landed in the middle of the pack in terms of the overall percentage of management jobs held by women (37.2 percent).

As we have seen, Oklahoma’s scores for economic security and leadership weren’t bad.  So what indicator relegated the state to the 48th bracket?  Unsurprisingly, it was health of Oklahoma women and families – where Oklahoma finished dead last. We’ll discuss how, why, and what can be done in the next post.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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