Best Regions For Working Women

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In “Magnify Money’s” analysis, the Washington, D.C., area ranked as the best metro area for working women.

Detroit Free Press

Women start their work lives with disadvantages relative to men. Women overall still make less money than men, interrupt their careers more often for family obligations and face persistent challenges ranging from sexual harassment to the glass ceiling that limits promotion.

But a new study published by the blog Magnify Money suggests an intriguing idea: that some metro areas provide much better opportunities for women than others.

In Magnify Money’s analysis, the Washington, D.C., area ranked as the best metro for working women. And, sadly, metro Detroit ranked next to last, despite the presence of leading corporate women such as Mary Barra at General Motors and Cindy Pasky at Strategic Staffing Solutions.

Calculating scores for the dozens of metros in the study involved blending a lot of different factors — the metro unemployment rate for women, the gender pay gap in each region, the percentage of female managers in the local business world, the percentage of businesses owned by women, and several more measures.

The analysis ranked Washington, D.C., the best place overall for working women for several reasons. It had the highest percentage of women in managerial positions in its workforce at 43.9 percent. Boston, Providence, Rhode Island, and Sacramento, California, also were tops with high rates of women in management positions, at just over 43 percent each.

Metro Detroit didn’t score too badly on that score, with 39.7 percent of women managers. But it did less well on other factors.

The nation’s capital also boasted some of the strongest parental and pregnancy leave policies of the 50 cities surveyed, second only to Boston. Of the top 10 cities, Washington was where child care is the most affordable, costing an average 19.9 percent of women’s median earnings.

Seattle, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Denver and San Francisco all scored high as locales where women do well.
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Detroit scored low, second from last, thanks mostly to high unemployment and a wider gender pay gap, as well as a lack of widespread parental and pregnancy leave policies.

Seattle seems to be more friendly to female entrepreneurs as the U.S. city with the highest number of women-owned business, at 39.7 percent. San Diego is the other top 10 city with a high 35.8 percent rate of businesses owned by women. The West Coast, in general, is a place where women entrepreneurs are succeeding.

In contrast, only about 25 percent of metro Detroit businesses are owned by women.

The entire analysis can be found at

So much for the data. What else can we glean from an analysis like this?

My takeaway is that Washington, D.C., may rank highest for working women not just because of its robust economy and better than average educational achievement level. Washington, as home to numerous government offices and nonprofit entities, operates in a world where cooperation, team building and empathy in the workplace matter more than in a cutthroat corporate environment.

Not that our politics in the nation’s capital is anything short of broken. But those at work in the government and nonprofit worlds accept the reality and necessity of meeting with a broader variety of stakeholders and reaching out across many interest groups. That requires skill sets that may play more to women’s strengths than men’s.

Now, this is not a solid conclusion, just a suggestion of what may be going on. But it is interesting that the places we associate with the nonprofit universe score high for working women, while an old-line corporate headquarters town like metro Detroit scores low.

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