Indiana Fails Miserably for Women and Families; Ranks Among Worst States In New Study

Posted on: April 5, 2018, by :

By Amy Foxworthy

If my children were to bring home a report card that looked like this: D, C-, D, D+, D+, F, we would at the very least sit down and have a talk. Changes would be discussed and implemented; punishments may even be enacted.  I would hire tutors; I would spend time wondering if I was doing enough as a parent.  I would wonder what, if any, outside factors were contributing to this poor performance.  The State of Indiana was recently graded on the quality of life for women and children by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and received the above grades in the 6 categories studied, with an overall grade of D, and ranking dead last among states’ family and work policies.

The categories graded include Employment & Earnings, Political Participation, Poverty & Opportunity, Reproductive Rights, Health & Well-Being, and Work & Family.

This poor report card highlights our state’s lack of support for policies like paid maternity leave, pre-kindergarten, child care, and leave for caring for elderly family dependents.  Indiana has also passed several laws over the past few years that block or impede women’s access to healthcare and safe abortion.

Efforts were made by Democrat legislators last legislative session to address several of these issues, including equal pay for women, as well as raising the minimum wage, and paid leave.  None of these issues were even granted an initial hearing by the males who chaired the committees.

One area in particular that Indiana ranks lower than almost all other states is the gender wage gap; only five states rank lower.  Hoosier women earn 74 cents for every dollar men earn, which adds up to nearly $13,000 per year in lost earnings.  (Although these statistics for women are bleak, minorities have it even worse; something not forgotten in this article. Those sad results are coming later.  This particular article focuses on women in Indiana solely due to the recent study release.)

When exploring some of the reasons why Indiana is such a poor environment for women, one obvious factor stands out: an under-representation of women in our state and federal legislatures.

Here is the sad truth: Although women make up over half of the population of the state of Indiana (51%), there are only 28 out of 150 seats in the Indiana General Assembly (13%) currently held by women.  Even though there are more women than men, only 13% of the people who get to make the laws are women.

Indiana has never elected a woman to a United States Senate seat, and only 7 out of the 320 Hoosiers to serve in the House of Representatives have been women.  Indiana has also never elected a woman or minority Governor. Perhaps if women had greater representation, necessary, positive changes could be made to improve Indiana’s dismal ranking in these areas.

If we want to have better representation in government, we need to vote more, seek out and back candidates (both women and men) who understand the need to make these important changes in our state.  Doing research, raising money, volunteering for campaigns, or running for office ourselves are steps we could take in hopes of making a difference.  Until we get more women, minorities and millennials with a seat at the table, we will continue to allow White, elderly males to make all of the important decisions that impact our lives daily.


Amy Foxworthy is an Indianapolis-based writer concerned with cultural, civil rights, and social justice issues.

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